Tag Archives: motherhood

“Don’t let the bedbugs bite”

May 10, 2015

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mothersday

By Fr. Paul Jarvis

I think I know how moms – and dads – feel after they tuck in a kid at night:

Heavenly!

Lately, I’ve been trying to take as many opportunities to visit my mom in this the final leg of her journey.

I especially like the ritual of tucking my mom into bed at night.  A ritual I know she enjoyed when I was kid in Hartford City – a good-night ritual I drew out as long as humanly possible.

As lights were turned off.  As sheets and blanket were drawn up under my chin.  As my footy-pajama’ed feet and legs shook in pure joy:

Mom: “Good night”

Kid: “Sleep tight.”

Mom: “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

Kid: “Don’t accept any wooden nickels.”

Then after a kiss, she leaves … only to sneak back later to watch me sleep.  I know this because I watched her watch me through my barely opened eyelids.

Heavenly! This must be what Heaven is like.

Although my mom has Alzheimers, she still knows who her husband and kids are.  And so when we Jarvis kids visit our mom, we don’t really expect there to be much of a dialogue.  We mostly just sit, perhaps watch some TV, patiently answering the same question again and again, and let our mom softly scratch our arms – as she did when we were kids, nestled into her hug in our living room.

Then it’s bed time.  As I now lean over and tuck her in, she says “Ohhhhhh, how I love you, Popo.  I really, really do!”  I love you too, mom, I say.

Me:  “Good night.”

Mom:  “Sleep tight.”

Me: “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

Mom:  “Don’t accept any wooden nickels.”

Then – and this is the best part, something every parent has experienced and treasures – this childless bachelor sits nearby in the dark, beside his sleeping loved one.  Just watching over her.  Watching her breathe.  Watching her listen to the drone of the nearby WCCO radio.  Watching her enter dreamland.

I have no doubt that many of us during the recent May Crowning of Mary imagined the St. Joseph School eighth grade girls crowning not just Mother Mary.  Not just giving our celestial mother flowers.  But imagining our own moms being crowned and gifted with flowers.

This Mother’s Day, I urge you to be a mom (or dad) to your mom.  Of course, remember the flowers.  But make sure you re-enact the ritual you treasure from your childhood.  Perhaps reversing the roles, as I do now.  That ritual, that crowning will be worth more than a gazillion flowers.

Fr. Paul Jarvis, Pastor of St. Joseph Church in Rosemount

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Empty nest moms, try some inspiration

April 16, 2012

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“Small Mercies: Glimpses of God in Everyday Life” is an easy reading collection of anecdotes from which Nancy Jo Sullivan has reached back and harvested the God moments.

Those are the small mercies of the title, mercies she suggests her readers take the time to share with others as part of their own lives.

You can speed through Sullivan’s newest work in less than an hour, the language is that familiar. Written at her kitchen table in St. Paul, it’s the kind of personal, real-life prose that makes you almost feel that Sullivan is sitting with you at your own kitchen table sharing the stories over a cup of coffee.

The points she makes in each of the 20 short chapters aren’t rocket science, just, well, small mercies — good things not to forget, good things to remember to do. They touch on topics like unconditional acceptance, remembering one’s dreams, dealing with the loss of a marriage and a child, fear of the future, taking risks, heartache and, of course, hope.

A divorced Catholic, the mother of three daughters, one a Down’s Syndrome girl who lived to only 23, Sullivan senses God touching her life almost at every turn. She puts it this way:

“The most precious revelations of God’s love are often hidden in the ordinary moments that shape our days….We can find God’s small mercies in the mundane conversations we share at the kitchen table or in the unexpected chats we have with strangers. When we encourage a coworkers, support a friend, or receive the care of a loved one, God’s mercies shine brightly, like votive candles.”

More than a memoir

Women “of a certain age,” as they say, may best appreciate the voice that 50-something Sullivan writes from, that of an woman looking back at her motherhood years yet looking forward to being more than an empty nester, finding the courage to see herself as more than a wife and mother, grieving yet coping.

She has a great line there. After cleaning out photos of her grown children and filling 10 scrapbooks, she writes about finally being ready to move on. Her own future, as she put it, is “an empty scrapbook waiting to be filled.”

You’ll find gems of that kind of turn-of-phrase sprinkled throughout “Small Mercies.” It’s inspiring writing.

At times Sullivan seems to reach a bit to connect an anecdote with a spiritual lesson, but it’s a minor fault if a fault at that. If anything it’s a reminder to readers to look for God in all things. As Sullivan writes, “God is always closer than we think.”

At end of each chapter Sullivan uses the framework of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to invite reflection and offer thoughts and ideas for how readers, too, can share God’s small mercies and put them into practice for the next chapters in their own lives. For this Loyola Press 108-page paperback, it’s just the right, helpful touch.

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Ready for your close-up?

August 29, 2011

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Here’s a valuable lesson for budding actors — and for you and me

By Michelle Martin

Each afternoon when I pick Caroline up from her theater camp, the students perform short pieces from the plays they will be presenting for the other campers and their parents.

What impression do we give everyday to the people you see -- and see you -- all day long? "Remember," Catholic mom and columnist Michelle Martin writes, just as young actors learn, "you are always auditioning."

It gives them a chance to work on new pieces in front of a small and friendly audience, without the high-stakes pressure of it being their one and only on-stage performance, and it gives the parents a chance to see what their kids are doing all day.

It also is a teaching situation, both in terms of the actual pieces being worked on — the teachers don’t hesitate to stop the music and remind the children exactly how they are supposed to be singing or to correct a dance move — and in terms of general life lessons.

So when a camper asks when the auditions for the next play are, the answer is, “You’re always auditioning.” That includes when they are supposed to be watching and listening to other campers perform.

When campers are practicing how to introduce themselves for auditions, they are reminded that the audition doesn’t start when they walk out onto the stage and say, “Hello, my name is … . “ When they are waiting in the wings, that’s part of the audition too, so they should projecting a sense of calm and confidence, not fidgeting with their clothing and poking the camper next to them.

That’s a valuable lesson, for people who want to be on the stage and for the rest of us.

Sure, there are times in your life when you know you will be evaluated or tested or have to prove yourself. There are exams and job interviews and tests of faith and courage.

Character counts. Everything counts.

But those aren’t the only times when you have to comport yourself well, with grace and dignity and kindness. Everything counts. Character is what you do when no one is watching — a line that has been attributed to half a dozen speakers, but most often to legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

Because, of course, someone always is watching. It seems trite to say that God is always watching, but that’s what Jesus tells us. In Chapter 6 of Matthew, Jesus tells his followers, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”

Nearly as often, people are watching, but they might not be the people you think about trying to impress. Ask anyone who is the primary caregiver for a toddler: Is there any time those eyes aren’t trained on whatever you are doing, or those ears aren’t straining to catch what you have to say? I remember watching Caroline play with her dolls when she was small, and seeing her repeat interactions I had with her word for word.

What about all the people you see every day, the waitstaff and store clerks and bus drivers? What impression do you give them as you go about your day?

Remember, you are always auditioning.

Reprinted with permission from Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Contact Martin at mmartin@archchicago.org.

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Publishers must think church saints are back in

July 28, 2011

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Saints are cool again. At least book publishers must figure they are.

Here’s a quick look at recent releases that target niche markets — teens and moms — people who might be searching for role models among the heavenly blessed — and one that could be for just about everyone.

Liguori Publications is aiming both at teenage readers and on-the-go mothers who might be looking for a spiritual boost — or at the least empathy.

In “Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints,” Colleen Swaim (http://www.liguori.org/productdetails.cfm?sku=820298) tells the real-life biographies of eight young people who lived relatively recently, all in an effort to help today’s young people understand that holiness is real and attainable.

Catholics will recognize names like Maria Goretti and Dominic Savio — well-known teens saints, but names new to me like St. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, an Indian nun, and St. Kizito, a  Ugandan martyred for his faith.

What makes the this 130-page paperback work is that Swaim knows her audience has short attention spans so she keeps the stories brief and interesting, but she also challenges teens to put themselves in the situations the saints found themselves, asking them to reflect upon questions like:

“Think back to the last time you were in physical pain. How did you react to it?”

And, “Do you remember making your first Holy Communion? How did you feel? How do you approach the Eucharist differently today?”

Even the brief text is broken up with definitions and info boxes scattered throughout along with prayers, quotes, and “Saintly Challenges” like, “With the zeal of a new convert, fearlessly tell one person about your faith.”

 

For Moms-on-the-go

In a similar vein but purse-size and just 79 pages is “Saints on Call: Everyday Devotions for Moms” (http://www.liguori.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=11903. Author Christine Gibson takes common, real-life situations — for example, “When you feel ‘sacrificed-out’ for your family…” — and offers a simple explanation how a saint dealt with a similar issue. Each brief story is followed by a quote from scripture to ponder and a prayer.

For the sacrificed-out mom, Gibson holds up St. Gianna Molla who chose to deliver her baby knowing it would cost her her own life. Gibson’s prayer hits home:

“St. Gianna, you made the ultimate sacrifice for your little one. I ask you to please pray for me that I may rejoice in the sacrifices I can make for my dear children.”

Among the more than four dozen other situations — each tied to a saint — are issues such as “When you feel like life is not going as you planned it…” (St. Rose Philippine Duchesne); “When you can’t stand another house guest…” (St. Lydia Pupuraria); “When you are worried about your wayward child…” (St. Monica).

Every single one is a winner.

 

For scholars, art lovers and, well, everyone

Finally, there’s this book that will appeal to a number of niche groups — and perhaps a general audience, too —  with stories about saints from Agatha to Zachariah.

“The Lives of the Saints through 100 Masterpieces” (http://www.dupress.duq.edu/pubDetails.asp?theISBN=9780820704364) is a Duquesne University Press paperback is going to be loved by those who cherish Christian art, but those interested in saints’ stories, myths, legends and history will find it compelling reading and viewing.

Written by Jacques Duquesne and Francois Lebrette and translated from the French by M. Cristina Borges, this 221-pager is a collection of saints’ biographies — and tales, to be honest — each accompanied by classic paintings that hang is places both well-known — The Louvre, The Prado — and obscure (to me at least), and almost all in Europe.

Even if you think you know the stories of saints you’ll find new information here. I especially appreciated the transparency of the authors who frankly acknowledge when something about one of the saintly heroes may have been passed down as mere legend.

Readers will appreciated learning why a saint is pictured in a certain way — St. Denis carrying his own head! – or typically painted with a certain object — a sword, a palm leaf, a stag, which would be St. Hubert, patron saint of hunters.

There are saints, too, that you may never have heard of — St. Fiacre, for example — that show the European bent of the authors. But those tales are interesting, too, and the paintings that help tell the story are indeed masterpieces. Warning: The retail cost is a bit steep at $29.95, but it isn’t cheap to print all those color paintings, and the print job is superb, even in the smaller format.– bz

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