Thoughts to begin Holy Week

Here are some thoughts as we begin Holy Week —

  • Mothering our families can feel overwhelming at times, can’t it? Well, I came across this quote today, and I really love it. –“Do everything calmly and peacefully. Do as much as you can as well as you can. Strive to see God in all things without exception, and consent to His will joyously. Do everything for God, uniting yourself to him in word and deed. Walk very simply with the Cross of the Lord and be at peace with yourself.” – St. Francis de Sales
  • Along those lines, I’ve had a different sort of Lent this year. Instead of just giving up the typical things, I’ve worked on a very specific virtue — joyfulness. B-mama wrote a while back about joy stealers, you know, those crabby people in our lives who are always complaining about things and looking at what’s wrong. Well, I spent this Lent not only trying to avoid being a joy stealer, but actually trying to be a joy maker. Mom really does set the tone in the house, and so joy making is a very important part of homemaking.  I’m pressing forward with this goal during Holy Week, which may make for a different sort of experience this year.
  • One of the big lessons I’ve learned from trying to be a joy maker — don’t dwell on your failures.  It isn’t very joyful to spend time thinking about how you are failing at being a joy maker!  Fail, ask forgiveness, and then ask for the grace to press on.  Like all things, it takes focus and perseverance.
  • And speaking of joy makers, two of my girls are quite gifted in this area.  My oldest daughter, Gianna, turned 9 on Friday. She celebrated with a big girl party, and what fun to see her enjoy her girlfriends.  As usual, I awoke on her birthay completely overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift of her life. She is such a light in our family, so full of joy and kindness. My younger children all agree that they are pretty lucky to have such a great big sister. They all showed her their appreciation in different ways on Friday, and I soaked in every minute of it.
  • Our new Holy Father is saying Holy Thursday Mass at a prison.  How challenging is that?  Since his election, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our family can better serve the poor in our local area.  The nursing home or helping with the St. Vincent DePaul Society at our Parish seem like obvious choices, but if you have ideas that work for you and younger children, please share them.
  • And speaking of serving the poor, a few weeks ago the Church celebrated the feast of St. Katharine Drexel.  Maybe it is because the former Catholic Chaplain at Princeton had a special liking for St. Katharine, or maybe it is my Philadelphia roots, but I’ve always been drawn to St. Katharine.  I’ve known for years that St. Katharine, the child of great wealth, gave it all away to serve the poor.  But just a few weeks ago I read that as a child, St. Katharine’s mother served the poor, inviting them into their home and treating them like members of the family.  I feel inspired and overwhelmed by this beautiful example of love.

Many prayers for all our readers as you begin Holy Week!

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  • Bethany “B-mama”

    Kel, great thoughts as we begin this very special week. I love the quote from St. Francis. I am going to copy it and post it somewhere in my kitchen for me to glance up at on a regular basis! Thank you for being a joy maker for me in my life. xox

  • Saoirse

    What beautiful thoughts! I have been so impressed with Pope Francis’ message – and yes, I think his actions speak out loud. I had a beautiful conversation with my two older sons about why the Pope would celebrate Holy Thursday in a juvenile prison. As 6 and 8 year olds, life is very black and white – bad guys go to jail – good guys don’t- there is no redemption in their minds. My 6 year old was very struck by this. He asked, “Do you think the Pope is trying to show us that these bad kids are still loved by Jesus?” The two of them started trying to remember all of the places Jesus reached out to people who weren’t considered “good”. (Amazing moment where my husband and I wanted to high five! They have been listening!!)

    It made me realize too that I have to work harder to show them that we need to do works of charity. Donating old toys or food or money doesn’t really make an impact on them. I have to find more tangible things for them. My husband recently decided to volunteer for Habitat – and has been giving up family time to work on a local project. We swung by the site one Sat – and my boys were so impressed to meet the family the house was being built for. My boys were ready to strap on their tool belts – but of course they are too young – but we hope they will remember.

  • Kellie, I love the St. Frances de Sales quote, too!
    I would love practical details on how you are becoming a “joy-maker” in your home – I love that you have reframed this and challenged yourself not only to NOT be a joy-stealer, but to actually BE a joy-maker. Why is this so hard some days???
    On your last point about St. Katherine Drexel and her mom welcoming the poor into their home…This is so fascinating and challenging to me. We have poor people on the four corners of the intersection closest to our home, and it seems so crazy to me that I can’t just invite these people into my home for a shower and a meal. It would be so easy. At the same time, my concern is for the safety of my family. I don’t know what the answer is, but for now, a smile and some conversation, with the occasional cup of coffee or warm meal, are all that I am providing for these poor that are quite literally outside my doorstep. Thoughts?

  • Kellie “Red”

    Re: joy making, there seem to be two keys to this for me. The first is that I am actually making it a daily goal, and really putting it above other things. I ask for grace to do this each day, right when I get up, and have some “hard breaks” where I reset this as a goal and ask for more grace. For example, a little prayer for help is always necessary just before lunch, and then again as I prep dinner before Mr. Red walks in the door.

    Second, I have changed my spiritual approach a little bit, and perhaps this is the topic for another post. I’m focusing almost exclusively on the resurrection lately, and the eternal joy of heaven. As a mother of young children, with almost constant forced and unexpected penances, I have to think of the joy of my faith, and the eternal reward. I can’t spend too much time focusing on the cross, but rather Christ’s victory through the cross. I have to look beyond the suffering, and really think about the glory of heaven. I’m not sure if that makes complete sense, but it is really making a difference for me at this phase in my life.

    And in regard to the poor, we live right near Camden, N.J., one of the most dangerous and poor cities in America. Like you, I worry about how my children and our family can safely serve. I’m not sure that we all have a calling at each life phase to actually invite these poor into our home (although some definitely do!), but there are many other people who are rather poor at my parish that I do have an opportunity to serve. Inviting one of those families for a meal, or simply taking the time to speak with them and minister to them after Mass are some things I have been thinking about. We can often spend extra time at our Parish chatting with friends. There is nothing wrong with this, but I am not really reaching out to the poor there in any significant way. There are also poorer nursing homes in our area, and organizing the kids to sing or do something there are ideas. I’m definitely looking for ideas and would love a discussion about this. The local pregnancy center is another idea…

  • Kellie “Red”

    Saoirse, I love this conversation you had with your children!

  • I have spent time living in cities where there are lots of visible poor, and here are two practical things that I have done, as encouraged by advocates for the homeless:

    1. Give gift cards for food places instead of cash
    2. Get involved with a local homeless shelter.

    On the last point, we had a program through our church where people who were spending the night in a shelter could get their laundry done. I would go to the shelter and pick up a bag of laundry, take it home and wash it, and return it later that night to the shelter. The same church sheltering program also had a long wait at intake, and volunteers would come to play checkers, play the violin, serve coffee, etc, with the men (in this case) who were waiting to be approved for the shelter. My parents actually spend the night at a shelter from time to time, because they need volunteers to be there when the parish is hosting the shelter (which is in a church hall).

  • KC

    We started visiting the local nursing home once a week this year and attending Mass there once a month. It was been wonderful–my children BEG to go and count down the days (6 and 4–and 1, but he doesn’t really count in this). It has been so wonderful. The elderly love to see them–some remember them by now, but many don’t seem to know who we are even when we talk with them regularly. There are also several young severely disabled people there and it is so wonderful to see how the children don’t bat an eye at their disabilities–they’re just as anxious to pass out a picture they colored or some snacks or whatever we might have. I’m hoping to get a few families together to go pass out flowers on Holy Saturday afternoon. We can skip part of our Easter feast and use the money so spread some beauty and joy through the nursing home!

  • KC

    Also, Red, I love the suggestion to focus on the glory of heaven. I think I spend too much time thinking “this is my cross I must bear” without joyful consideration of where it will lead me (I pray!).

  • Mary Alice

    A few years ago we regularly attended the K of C potluck “soup and stations” on Friday nights in Lent. I noticed that this was a mix of Princeton area families and lonely elderly. I am sure that for at least some of the people, a free hot meal every Friday night for several weeks was a help, so contributing to something like that (or donuts after mass, etc) are helping the poor in your parish in an indirect way.

    It is worthwhile to note that (especially for the elderly) loneliness is a real poverty, so even just training your children to be cheerful and a little bit outgoing, (as you have), to shake someone’s hand and greet them at the kiss of peace, etc, could be a real gift. I think of my 90 year old grandmother attending mass, I’m sure that a smile from a little four year old would make her day and fill her with hope. It might be important from time to time to remind them (and yourself) that your efforts to have them clean and polite at mass are part of a gift of self to the Lord and to your fellow parishioners. Sometimes I forget this myself, and just think that it is old fashioned or trying to be fussy, but then I see a pretty little girl in a dress trying hard to behave at mass and it makes my day, too!

    There is a nanny who lives near my grandmother who used to stop and chat as she was walking the baby around the neighborhood. That friendly chat and interaction with the baby, and feeling that she knew the children in her neighborhood, was also worth a lot to her.