Posts tagged ‘Catholicism’

November 21, 2011

Time to Celebrate!

Yesterday was Jacob’s Baptismal day. I didn’t grow up celebrating Baptismal days, and I didn’t know that anyone did. John’s family introduced me to this tradition, and if only for the fact that it doubles the amount of cake you can justify each year (eight birthdays + eight Baptismal days = cake! cake! cake!), I found it to be a really great thing to commemorate.

John’s family, and I’m sure others too, mark the day not only with special dessert after dinner, but also with a chance to “honor” the person being celebrated. Even when I was John’s girlfriend, I loved being part of this tradition. In whatever order people feel comfortable, everyone around the table shares something he admires or appreciates about the honoree. Sometimes it’s a recent act that displayed joy, faith, or integrity. Sometimes it’s something the honoree did to motivate the honor-er to think more about his or her own faith or character. Other times, it’s more simply the characteristics of the honoree that inspire honor-ers to be better, stronger, happier people.

Whether the honoree was John, one of his parents, or one of his siblings, I enjoyed offering my own thoughts as much as hearing everyone else’s. How often does a family take the time to consider the beauty, the individuality,  and the promise of each of its members? This sort of encouragement is something I hope John and I can foster in our own family, and that starts today.

In the midst of all this honoring, there was always one comment that, frankly, baffled me. Whoever could get to it first would honor the baptismal day boy/girl for being a “son or daughter of God.” For a long time, I didn’t understand this. Weren’t we remarking on things the person had chosen to do? Characteristics that, even if they came naturally, the person allowed to shine even in tough situations? How could we honor someone for something over which he or she had absolutely no control?

Being Jacob’s mother, I’ve come to understand this in a very humbling way this year. Every day I learn something new about Jacob’s character, his temperament, and the choices he’s likely to make. Yet even before these things began to surface, I loved him simply because he was a little boy, my little boy, made in the image and likeness of God. I love him simply because he exists. And that is how God loves us—simply because we exist.

So today—or yesterday, really—I honor Jacob for being a son of God. And for teaching me what that means.

Happy Baptismal day, Jacob!

November 16, 2011

First American-Born Pope?

If the ladies at daily Mass were responsible for choosing the next pope, I think they’d vote Jacob into the office now—even though Benedict XVI is still serving, and even though Jacob can barely talk. Jacob is like the homecoming king of daily Mass: all the ladies know his name and want to be around him. He is pretty cute, so I can’t blame them. The ladies will often tell me how sweet it is to hear his voice during Mass, and as long as that voice wasn’t screaming that day, I believe them and take their kindness to heart.

The truth is Jacob has been easier and more fun to have at Mass in the past few weeks. I attribute a good deal of that to the fact that I’ve started to bring a snack cup for him to keep him entertained. His snacks are admittedly a bit crunchy, but with only eight teeth, he’s still pretty quiet.

The other part of the equation is that I’m starting to believe he’s paying attention. Yes, he is barely fourteen months old, but he goes to Mass nearly every day, and rather than letting him roam the church for the entire service, I try my best to draw his attention to the altar and whisper to him what’s going on. If I ever doubted the power of the Eucharist, the quiet and calm that comes over Jacob once the Host has been consecrated has turned all that around. When I point to the altar, he keeps his eyes trained on the priest and is virtually silent, in a relaxed and very happy kind of way. Almost like an angel, you might say.

This is not to toot my own horn and suggest that I never let him walk around church, or I never get frustrated with the physical workout Mass can become. Sometimes Jacob needs to get his legs moving, but he also needs to learn when to sit still and how to obey when I tell him to be somewhere. I can’t help but get frustrated when I see school-age children ignoring what’s going on in front of them at Mass, not kneeling or standing at the proper times, seeming to not listen to the readings at all. Given, I’ve never attempted to participate in Mass while caring for a second-grader, or anything like it. But kids are expected to sit still, eyes forward, and pay attention at school for seven hours a day, five days a week, right? So why not an hour on Sunday morning?

Sometimes I think I’m jumping the gun, trying to teach Jacob things before he’s ready for them. But I’m not pushing him or punishing him if he needs to talk a little more some days or take a stroll around the back of the chapel on other days. On the other hand, if we don’t start teaching him this now, then when?  John and I decided early on that we would do our best to keep our kids near the front of the church so they can see what’s going on, and hopefully be more interested. I’m amazed and grateful for how well it’s worked thus far.

First American-born Pope? Maybe. But in the meantime, a little boy who understands and appreciates the faith his parents are passing on to him is all I ask.

November 7, 2011

Have You Heard of November?

Dear merchandisers of America,


As odd as it may seem on first glance, I’m writing with a concern about your office supplies. You calendars, in particular. I think they’re missing something.


You see, there’s this month between October (when Christmas decorations go up) and December (when Christmas is celebrated). It’s called November. It’s pretty important, at least to me. There’s Thanksgiving, my mom’s birthday, and—get this—the start of Advent, the season my family uses to prepare for Christmas.


Now, I’m not asking you to build your entire marketing plan around the Catholic liturgical calendar or to outfit your offices with calendars of the saints. But I’m curious as to why you start marketing Christmas goods in October. Do you think we’ll forget Christmas is coming?


Or is it that you love Christmas so much, the four weeks of Advent simply aren’t enough? Are you that excited to celebrate the birth of Christ? If only! Or do you find red and green really flattering for your complexions? Do you kind of wish you could wear Christmas sweaters all year round? Is that what this is about? I really hope not.


I admit I’ve considered starting my Christmas shopping a little earlier this year, but it’s not because I want the season to last longer. Rather, it’s because I want to enjoy what the season’s really about. Turns out, it’s not about sleighs and reindeer and cookies. Okay, maybe it’s about cookies, if my grandma’s the one baking them.


It’s really about being with your family and your friends, and being grateful for what already exists in your life, not about what you’re going to get next. Gift-giving is certainly a manifestation of love, and it’s an important one (see The Five Love Languages). But at the end of the day, it’s a symbol, a symbol of something that runs deeper. A symbol of the tremendous love of a God who cares for each and every person on the planet as if s/he were the only one.  Yes, this love is as strong in October as it is in December, but I really don’t think we need to deck the halls that early to remind us of it.


So this letter, which I doubt you’ll receive, is a plea to respect the month of November, and the intelligence—and calendars—of your customers. We know Christmas is coming. We’re excited about it. We’ll buy stuff to help us celebrate, really. In fact, we might even buy more stuff if we weren’t sick of it all by the time the holiday rolled around.


If you take nothing else from my rant, consider this: a Jack-o-Lantern should never have to meet a reindeer face-to-face. It’s just not right.


With best wishes for happy holidays (Halloween and Thanksgiving, too), and with hopes that you’ll change your ways next year,


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