Don’t doubt it: your vocation is the greatest grace our Lord could have given you. Thank Him for it.
-St. Josemaria Escriva
I know this might not be true for everyone, but I need to admit that the ordinariness of the married vocation blinds me every now and then and I forget that this exact path I’m on is where the grace is. Holiness is happening right before my eyes if I pay attention and respond. But it’s hard! I don’t know about you, but on the rough days I find myself daydreaming about the what ifs. What if I had become a nun and could just pray all day? What if I was single and could get gelato whenever I wanted? What if I had joined the circus?! I think the deluge of what ifs is normal, as long as we dismiss them promptly.
As a parent, something that has helped me focus on the awesome task in front of me is to come up with what my spirituality as a parent ought to look like.
This list came about after several hard months of feeling hidden in the home. It seemed that everything I did was completely unnoticed and as much as I wanted to embrace that in joy like our Lady, it crushed me. I wanted recognition, encouragement, a gold star… something! But hiddenness was exactly where our Lord wanted me. Through it I learned that the hidden stuff done well is what makes a family holy, not necessarily the stuff we show on the outside. Was I praying regularly? Did I speak in a gentle and kind voice when disciplining my kids? How loving was I after a long day when catching up with my husband? Was my life centered on Christ and did it show? This was the stuff that really mattered.
Working in a parish, I trained catechists and taught them what the spirituality of a catechist should look like. As lay people, most of us expect a certain spirituality from our priests (Eucharistic, prayerful, patient, etc), but I hadn’t ever read something succinct just for parents. What was my spirituality supposed to look like? What were other people doing to keep their eyes on the prize? So, I figured, why not compile my own list of what I want my spirituality to look like as a parent to help keep me on task and focused on the bigger picture – heaven – when dealing with all the smaller pictures in life.
I pray this list helps you to take a look at your own spirituality, and that we can hold each other accountable to these things.
THE SPIRITUALITY OF THE PARENT
1. DEEP PRAYER LIFE. Ah! This one is the first for me because it’s the hardest to implement. St. Francis de Sales said “every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy, then we need an hour”. St. Francis, bro, you’re killing me! But I know he’s right and I need to do it. My goal (and I’m not even close to it yet so don’t look up to me) is to be such a prayerful soul that my children learn to love to pray because they witness the awesome effect it has on me.
2. CONSECRATED TO THE BLESSED MOTHER. I first prayed the Consecration to Mary when I was 19 years old and it changed my life radically. Her maternity is not just sentimental. She is truly our Mother in the order of grace (Catechism of the Catholic Church 968). Because of this, being totally hers is not optional for me. A personal challenge I have for myself is to pray the Rosary in front of my kids more. I always have my phone with me. I realized the other day that my children’s memory of me will be with a phone in my hand. How pathetic is that? So instead, I’m going to work on making sure their memory of me will be always having a rosary in my hand.
3. CHRISTOCENTRIC. I want everything in my life to have its center in Christ. It seems that it is increasingly harder to do this in our culture. So many other things are grabbing to steal that center spot. Food, exercise, sports, friends, ice cream (please Jesus let there be ice cream in heaven). I want to witness that I can live without all those other things – I can’t live without Christ. This means I need to talk to Him and about Him in front of my children. I need to always live as a disciple. I need to seek Him in the Eucharist. I need to love Jesus more than air and be a living example of that love story to my family.
4. AUTHENTIC. This one is tricky – I don’t want to burden my children with my own problems and hardships. When I reflect on my spirituality as a parent, I don’t take authenticity to mean oversharing. My kids don’t need to know all our financial or NFP details for example – and that doesn’t make me less authentic for keeping some things more hidden. The authenticity I’m speaking of is my walk matching my talk. If I’m teaching them that lying is a sin, do they overhear me fibbing about details to a bill company so I don’t get late charges? If I’m teaching them to keep Sunday holy, do they see me overworking or do they see me praying? Actions always speak louder than words.
5. EVANGELIZING. I need to get real with myself and remember that it isn’t primarily the job of the parish, the catechists, the youth minister, or the school to evangelize my children. The sublime task of inviting and handing on the Faith falls first on my husband and me. A lot of this is done through the four things above, but if I don’t have a missionary heart in a sense towards my own children, this just isn’t going to happen. If I’m passionate about bringing their souls to Jesus, I’m moving in the right direction.
So there you have it. I’m not even close to doing these perfectly, or even very well. But it’s a start. I’m focusing on making sure I keep myself in check with these five things so that I can do this parenting thing with grace and lead these sweet souls to heaven in the process.
(This article first appeared on www.yellowpelican.net)