Yes, I do know it is Wednesday, not Tuesday. I started this entry almost 2 weeks ago (shortly after the speaker I mention below shared the views I have commented on) and have just now been able to finish it. This week, then, it is “Titus-Wednesday” I suppose. Hopefully, I’ll be able to manage these on Tuesdays soon. Probably not next week, though, as we will be celebrating Matthew Karol’s life with his family at a Mass for him next Tuesday.
Mothers Serving the Body of Christ
Just how do mothers do that? Must we put aside our duties and make time to serve in the parish on various committees and charities doing various activities? Some think so. Just recently I heard someone I love and respect say something like this:
You think you are busy now, raising your children and that you will serve the Lord in the Church and parish when they are grown. But they will grow quickly and will marry and have their own children and then you will think you are too busy with your grandchildren. They too will grow up and marry and you will one day have great-grandchildren and you still will not be serving the Lord in the Church and the parish. You will come to the end of your life never having used your talents and time in the Church.
The time to serve in the Church and parish is not later, it is now.
I am afraid that I must take exception to this way of thinking. As brilliant as this speaker truly is, as often as I, and others, have been edified by this speaker’s words, I heartily disagree with the speaker now. Wives and mothers in particular must never feel as though they are not “good Catholics” or are not “serving the Lord” because they don’t teach CCD or are not part of the Altar and Rosary Society or any number of good things in their parishes. How, when, how often we minister in the parish setting must be subordinate to our faithfully living our vocation. It must be applied to everything we may undertake… or may refuse to undertake. We must remember that to “everything there is a season” and that we really, truly do the Body of Christ much good by being faithful to the needs, the demands, the details of living our vocation fully. Our first, best and primary means to serve the Lord is to focus on the vocation He calls us to, to focus on our own family.
Before I go on, I must emphasize that I do not think that it is impossible or always wrong for a mother to volunteer within the parish or other organizations. I just don’t think that is the only, the best, or the primary way for moms to serve God. I know moms who are intently, deliberately and successfully raising their families who do volunteer for various things. I have had times when I volunteered, too. But it always was second to my primary vocation. It was never the primary means for me to serve God. If anything must suffer, it must be that which is outside of my specific vocation.
The primary means for us to serve God is to be faithful to the work that God himself has given us. If we are mothers raising families, we know exactly what our primary work is: our families and homes.
1 Timothy 2:15 says:
But she will be save through (childbearing) motherhood, provided women persevere in faith and love and holiness with self-control.
Those are pretty strong words. She will be saved through motherhood. Our path to holiness and eternal happiness is found in the heart of our vocation, not outside of it.
Titus 2: 3-5 adds more.
Similarly, older women should be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to drink, teaching what is good, so that they may train younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, chaste, good homemakers, under the control of their husbands, so that the word of God may not be discredited
The things listed here that older women are to teach the younger women are not about searching for ways to serve God and the Church outside of the family and home, but rather inside of them: love their husbands and children, be chaste, be good homemakers. After that, at the right time, in the right way, we can reach our hands out to the poor, we can serve in our parish, if we have the time and means available. Even the Proverbs 31 woman, the model of a busy, active, godly woman, places her vocation, her family, ahead of everything else. She procures food and fabrics and her household is fed and is clothed well and warmly and after that she sees that her handwork is profitable and she supplements the family income with it. It is only after she fulfills her obligations and duties to her own vocation that she reaches out her hands. There is a clear order to what she does.
If we are wives, if we are mothers, our vocation is clearly spelled out for us. Our first obligation to God is to serve our family, to help them get to heaven and to give our time and attention toward that end. Our vocation provides us with the means to serve God fully and completely. We do not need to look outside of our primary vocation to find a way to serve God. We do not need to be (simply for example) extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist or lay lectors to really serve God, especially when we’re raising young children. It is more than enough to spend Mass training our children to participate fully and behave properly. We do not need to spend hours in planning and then leave our homes weekly to teach catechism to other people’s children in order to serve God. We can (and should) be teaching the faith, teaching morals to our own children first and foremost.
Thomas Merton said:
Each one of us has some kind of vocation. We are all called by God to share in His life and in His Kingdom. Each one of us is called to a special place in the Kingdom. If we find that place we will be happy. If we do not find it, we can never be completely happy. For each one of us, there is only one thing necessary: to fulfill our own destiny, according to God’s will, to be what God wants us to be.
If God made us a wife, if he made us a mother, we know what God wants us to be, we know His will for us. He wants us to devote our whole life, our whole being to Him through the family and home He gives us. He has given us a very special place in His kingdom. This place has seasons and how we live it all out will change as the family grows, but it is clear what our primary focus must be.
This is usually not glamorous. In many ways it is mundane. The service we give is mostly hidden and often goes unrecognized and unappreciated. The world, especially “western culture”, certainly doesn’t recognize the dignity of our vocation. Often, the very ones who receive our service don’t recognize the work we do on a daily basis (aren’t we funny that way? Isn’t it odd the way we take for granted the most basic and constant ways those in our lives serve us? I am the queen of taking others for granted.)
Before anyone else can recognize the beauty and dignity of our vocation, we must see it ourselves. If we reduce the things of our vocation to mundane, mindless, worthless “chores” (cleaning spit up, washing clothes, “slaving over a hot stove”) we won’t see the dignity of the work God put in front of us. If we focus on giving service to that baby who needs his face washed and his clothes changed, if we focus on giving service through the work of ensuring clean clothing for our family, if we embrace the gift it is to provide nutritious and delicious meals and afford the family an opportunity to gather and share mealtimes together, we have done much more than the mundane chores of cooking or cleaning. We have ministered to God’s people, the specific people He entrusted to us.
To paraphrase Fr. Tim Vakoc:
“The safest [best, happiest] place for me to be is in the center of God’s will. If that means in the [“trenches” of my own home, raising my own family, making them a home,] that is where I will be.”
There are so many distractions that can prevent us from doing this each day. Unfortunately, many are “self-inflicted” but others stem from pressure from others to DO something BIG for God, like the dear speaker I quoted in the beginning. I believe that we women must be free to understand that what God gives us is sufficient and serving our own families IS serving Christ.
We must be free from a false guilt that we are not doing enough if we are not volunteering all over the parish and town. Mind you, if we are not doing enough in our vocation (something that I struggle with constantly) that can be cause for true guilt ~ the guilt that should motivate us to make changes. I truly hope that wives and mothers can see that what we do is no small task, what we are called to is not unimportant and that if anything can wait, it is the outside things.
If we do it well and do it right, there is nothing bigger we women can do for God than focus our time and attention on the family that God himself gave us. So I say, go ahead and focus on your children and husbands, give your vocation your full attention. Pray always for wisdom and discernment as you pass through seasons, but do not question the value of living your vocation to the best of your ability. Don’t doubt the value of the service you give the Lord in focusing on your primary vocation ~ even if that means you don’t give hours to various committees and charities. After all, charity begins at home.
Lord, help us to always remember your call on our lives.
Teach us to serve you faithfully in all things
and to remember that in our littleness,
in the hidden, in the mundane,
we fulfill Your will most beautifully,
for it is not to glorify self that we do these things,
but only to glorify You.
Give us Your eyes to see
the magnificence of what you have called us to
and grant us the wisdom we need
to discern all things
in light of You,
Your call on our lives.
Dear Mother Mary,
You fulfilled God’s will perfectly,
hidden in your home in Nazareth,
caring for Jesus and St Joseph,
focusing on the duty of the day,
assisting your Son in his great work
by doing no more and no less
than living your vocation fully and with purpose.
Teach us to embrace the hidden life
and to serve faithfully as you did.