The Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “In her it is always Jesus we meet…” (Father Maurice Zundel)
I’m sad. Our Religious Education program on Wednesday nights no longer serves dinner. “It was always the same people every week… a big waste of money…” someone explained about the reasons why the dinner was ditched.
I hadn’t realized dinner was canceled. Our DRE offered it as a courtesy to families trying to get to class on time, because she knew it was challenging to get kids fed after school, do homework, and get out the door again. And so, after picking up and dropping off kids all afternoon, the Duffys showed up hungry to an empty parish hall.
I felt like a neglected child: What do you mean, no dinner? Because we’re not new, exciting people– just the same old boring mouths that always want fed?
I thought about how faithfully the same boring families had attended the dinners over the years, how I could count on walking into the Parish hall and seeing our second family there. My kids would run to the group of boys that always had tiny lego contraptions in their pockets to show off, and they’d barely eat they were so excited to recount what they’d built or collected recently. Our priest would be there, sitting at the table with the old-timers. And several other families quietly fed small children. Really, consistently, quite a lot of people showed up to dine at church.
Tonight felt like the end of a golden age, and not just because I was hungry.
Our priest retired over the summer, and now we share a priest with another nearby church. Our new priest is wonderful, but you can tell he is already overwhelmed by the responsibility of girding up two Churches and two different communities. He doesn’t have time to socialize. On Sunday morning, he zig-zags across town to say Mass at each of the Parishes. We no longer have a priest in residence in the rectory, and soon, we will have a nun living in the old house as Parish administrator.
The Wednesday night Religious Ed. program is itself in jeopardy. Since our sister Parish is so much larger, they may end up absorbing our kids into their program. My second grader is currently the only child receiving his First Communion at our church this year.
So much change. I feel a little unmoored, and that’s just at church.
We’re crossing into new terrain at home as well. I have moved into the stage where I am no longer nagging the kids to brush their teeth so much as to put on deodorant. I keep a tube in the car, just in case the chief offender forgets.
Several times this week I have wondered how I’m going to keep juggling all the plates. At the Middle School open house last week I had six teachers to meet for each of my kids, and I was myself zig-zagging up and down the hallways with a baby and children, one of whom was experiencing his first night on crutches with his freshly broken foot. Not surprisingly, we all went down. I tripped on the crutches that kept popping to the side at unpredictable angles, and then my son went down, and I barely caught the baby before we hit ground.
Fortunately, there weren’t many witnesses in the hallway, because I couldn’t get up for a few minutes. No one was injured seriously, I just felt that I could not take another step in that moment. It was just too much. So I sat exactly where I had landed, and nursed the baby. My son gathered his legs and his crutches, and the other kids looked on sort of embarrassed at the pile of their family members on the floor.
I have felt this week like I’m getting twisted tighter and tighter at every end, and at some point everything is going to spin out of control…assuming it hasn’t already and I’m just too dim to see it.
I had several weeks over the summer when I didn’t sleep for days. I couldn’t sleep at the thought of home schooling. I couldn’t sleep at the thought of tuition and driving long distance to a private secondary school. I couldn’t sleep on the thought of my little kids in the giant public school. It seemed like there were exactly no options that this particular mother, with these particular kids, in this particular location would be able to do.
One night in the wee hours when I wasn’t sleeping, I went and sat in front of the picture of Our Lady of Guadelupe in our living room and told Mary she’s going to have to do all this for me. She’s going to have to hold my kids’ hands into adulthood. She’s going to have to protect them in those times when I can’t see them. She’s going to have to make some decisions for me about where and how they’re going to discover the world, because they’re decisions that seem too weighty for me to make.
Even though no decisions had been made in that moment, I was able to sleep afterwards. And in the days that followed, certain steps forward began to present themselves. My husband affirmed them, and so I followed them.
One of the hardest things, I think, about making difficult decisions is the mourning one experiences for all the alternate roads not taken. Down each path is a potential vision of the particular kind of mother I’m not going to be. There goes the home schooling mom in me, up in vapors. There goes the parochial school activist. There also goes the specter of my kids in plaid kilts, or sitting around my kitchen table painting sparrows for their integrated science and art class.
And ahead is mystery. A friend called today and asked me what I was going to do now that all my kids* are in school, “Are you going to write that novel you’ve been talking about?”
But no, I don’t really have the focus for that at the moment. All I want to do right now is watch and pray for my kids. I have already thoroughly annoyed the school secretaries with my frequent visits to the school office for various things. And as mentioned, driving my kids around is sort of a full-time occupation on some days. “It’s a good time to visit with them, in the car” my husband said and indeed, I’ve had more and better conversations with my kids in the car than I had all summer with everyone at home.
But it’s still hard, like anything at this stage in life is hard. We make decisions with as much faith as we have available.
Tonight, while my kids were in their religious ed classes, I wandered, hungry and tired, into the sanctuary, which was, blessedly, unlocked. I sat the baby down on the floor with a string Rosary to chew on, and slumped over the kneeler. All my prayers went gimme, gimme, I need, please provide–I felt a little overwhelmed trying to identify exactly what it was I needed the Lord to supply me with so that I could feel OK. I had intentions for each of my kids–graces I wanted them to have as well, and I was longing for all my disparate thoughts to come together and make peace somehow. It was one of those moments when prayer feels overwhelming because there is so much need, and such inadequate language to ask for it.
Totus Tuus were the words that came to mind. You’ve given it all to Mary. She’s going to take care of it. And where the prayer had once felt like a desperate inhale on a condemned prisoner’s last cigarette, it released into a glorious and confident exhale.
It’s all yours.
* “All of my kids” is a relative phrase since two of them are still at home with me. Four of them are in school.