Mother’s Day is give and take

346px-ordination_sacerdotaleA Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers! With a child who is discerning a religious life, you wonder, how do you act as “mother” now. Do they still need you? Are you still relevant? Do you have something to offer in their life choice? The answer is of course, yes.

As a mother, you understand that giving of yourself is how you care for your children. From this life long giving, your child has learned to be a generous giver themselves. Mother’s Day is a time when most people take a moment to give their mother a special thank you for all the giving they have done. From an early age, the child in return gives a card and gift. At first they are the handmade items from school, the handprint plaque, the freely drawn hearts, the macaroni necklaces. All these things come from the heart of the child and the imagination of the teacher. Later, it turns to candles, bath soaps, and gift cards. The child has matured enough to know they should give, but are too immature to understand their mother as a person.

The last stage is the mindful gifts. The time when the child understands that the mother is a person in her own right and knows what would mean the most to her. This is different for each family and is as diverse as families themselves. The child has truly learned how to give from the heart the way the mother modeled for them.

There is a gift I haven’t received yet but know (hope) will be coming to me. At the time of ordination, the hands of the priest are anointed with sacred Chrism Oil. Traditionally the ordinand’s hands were then wrapped in a cloth called the maniturgium. This tradition has been discontinued and now the newly ordained priest just wipes clean with a purificator cloth. The second part of this tradition was to present the cloth to the mother of the newly ordained. This part of the tradition is being revived with the purificator. The cloth is being set aside for the son to present to his mother.

That is the first gift.

The second comes when the mother dies. She is to be buried with this cloth in her hands. Upon greeting the Lord in heaven, He will say “I have given you life, what have you given to me?” The mother then presents the cloth and replies “I have given You my son.”

I was given the gift of a son, I am pleased to return this gift to God. I cannot wait to receive the maniturgium from my son’s ordination. This is the final gift.

— Kit (Mom of Evan)

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The Eye of the Storm

320px-Hurricane_Isabel_from_ISS.jpgSeems like we don’t post as much here as we did when our son first informed us that he wished to enter the priesthood. It occurred to me that we are in the eye of the storm right now. The quiet time after a storm hits and before the storm ends. He is on his pastoral year getting a taste of what it would be like to work in a parish setting. Next year he will return to D.C. to go back to the seminary and continue his classes toward getting his master’s degree. He is a little more than half-way through this process. We have become accustomed to the thought of his life’s calling and where it might lead him. We are now seasoned seminarian parents who know where he is, how he is being treated, and where he is headed. In a few years however, we will enter the backside of the storm as he approaches ordination. When will he receive ordination as a deacon? What are his responsibilities at this point? What if he changes his mind between the deaconate and priesthood? At his final ordination as a priest, what is expected of us? Are we involved in the ceremony or merely attendees? What is the traditional gift from the parents at ordination? (We think it is the chalice and paten.)  Where do you find such thing? Can you get them made special just for your child? Are we expected to have a party for him?

The back of the storm is coming but right now, I think we are content to bask in the short burst of quiet and sunshine that is the now. Soon enough, we will batten down the hatches again and return to riding out the storm. As we enjoy this quiet moment, we realize others are just entering the whirlwind of their child’s decision to enter religious life. I pray our earlier posts will be signposts through the turbulence for these people and that they will find the answers they need.

— KitC (Mom of Evan)

 

The Patron Saint of Seminarian Moms

296px-gerbrand_van_den_eeckhout_-_anna_toont_haar_zoon_samuc3abl_aan_de_priester_eliThe first reading for today (December 22, 2106 – Thursday the fourth week of Advent) is from first Samuel (1 Samuel 1:24-28) and deals with Hannah bringing three year old Samuel to the Temple and leaving him there. She had promised the priest that if she had a son, she would dedicate the child to the Lord and she held to her part of the bargain.

When my son Evan entered his novitiate, these were the first readings I heard upon going to Mass. Right then and there, Hannah became my new favorite saint. I admired her strength in giving her child over to what she knew was right. The reading don’t say how she felt on leaving Samuel behind but I imagine there were tears and possibly even regrets but she still followed through. (Officially Hannah is the patron of childless wives and infertile women, but there doesn’t seem to be a patron for seminarian moms so I’ve adopted her.)

How often in both my children’s lives I have wished to keep them close so I could protect them. Every mother feels that mix of joy and sadness when their child moves away and leaves their protection. For most children, they eventually form a bond with one special person who enters their life and is there to help them. For my son, that isn’t an option and I fear him having no one to help him.

This is of course not true. Besides the counsel and wisdom of the brothers within his order (for a secular priest it would be the formation group and his peers), he has the Holy Spirit to guide him and be his counsel. This does not mean I stop worrying about him, or wanting to know he is safe, but I remind myself that I must give him fully to God.

This year my husband and I approach our first Christmas without him home with the family. While we grieve his absence during the holidays, we are lifted up but the words of Mary “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” and realize our son is in good hands.

A Merry Christmas to you all and a Blessed New Year.

— Mom of Evan

A Call to Return to Mission

pathwayRecently I was privileged to participate in a week long retreat/seminar at Loyola University on the topic of Parish Health and Wellness. It was an intense time with forty of the most dedicated and special people I have ever met in my life. Each one of these people touched my soul and walked alongside of me as we grew together in our knowledge of not only the topic at hand but our own spirituality and missions as well. I hope to maintain a relationship with each of them through our spiritual journeys. One person, in particular, called me back to the mission of this blog.

While at our first dinner with some of the other participants we started introducing ourselves to each other. I mentioned my son in the seminary and one woman suddenly sat up, looked teary, and said she needed to talk to me after dinner. I was startled but said “sure”.

Later that evening when we got together to talk, she disclosed to me that her son is discerning going into the priesthood and she wanted to talk about the experience with me as a mother who has been there. Over the next four days together, we frequently touched base, she would ask questions, I would offer other questions, and I told her she should look toward our blog after we had to go home. Her emotions and distress at the unknown made me recall my similar emotions shortly after Evan informed us of his decision to join the Paulists. Six years later, I had gotten complacent and comfortable with the situation and didn’t think about the blog much anymore.

This mother’s experience brought me back to my original questions, fears, and hopes during the early days of Evan’s discernment and made me realize that there had to be others out there who are just in the first stages of discovery with their child. This blog is not just for us as we write it, but for others as they search for the answers to their questions about their child’s discernment to religious life. If you are just learning that your child is contemplating religious life, I hope the answers within this blog will help you. If you ever have a question that we don’t address, please contact us and we will do our best to get the information you need. We want to be with you during this exciting time.

My journey last month was made special by the wonderful people who joined me. This blog is for people who want to help each other as we all travel the same path at different times.

My prayers for you and your children as you enter this journey.

–Mom of Evan

Image courtesy of http://pdpics.com/photo/367-garden-pathway/

A son is a son…..

photo

I grew up hearing the rhyme, ” A daughter’s a daughter all of her life, but a son is a son till he takes on a wife”. But what happens when the son doesn’t take on a wife, like when he becomes a priest. The most common question I get from other people is “What about grandkids?” I am okay with not having grandkids but my first question was “Am I going to lose my son?”

I recently took a trip to D.C. The trip was not only to see my son, but as a surprise for my mother as well. My very thoughtful sister, Beth, was bringing my mother down from Pennsylvania to visit Evan for a weekend. She suggested that I also come to D.C. and surprise Mom. The plan worked worked like a dream and even my father kept the secret. My mother was surprised and happy to see me. It was wonderful getting to spend time with her and my sister.

I arrived a day earlier than my sister and mother and Evan had to work that morning. I wandered down to the kitchen for a cup of tea and found another seminarian doing the same. Michael C. is a lovely man about nine years older than Evan. We struck up a conversation that lead to him talking about his calling and the path his life is taking. At the end of the conversation he commented that it was like talking to his mom, but not. There are some things you can never talk to your mom about because….she’s your mom. I also felt like I was talking to a son. A son I was just getting to know and who was already fully grown.

The conversation got me thinking and I took some time to ask a few of the priests in residence at the college about their moms, and moms in general. Usually these gentlemen talked about the fact that they were close to both their mom and dads but became closer to their moms around the time of formation. Some commented, as the “single” man in the family, they were often looked on to coordinate family events and help their mother.  One individual commented the the death of a mother was often a mid life crisis event for priests.

After two days of visiting and touring DC on bus, Beth and Mom returned to Erie on Sunday morning. I stayed because my flight wasn’t until Monday morning. Evan and I had some time to visit the church of his spiritual director. I attended my first Eastern Rite Catholic Mass (a lovely spiritual event if you ever have the opportunity to partake) and dinner that evening was takeout from Evan’s favorite pizza joint (& Pizza). After the meal, Evan left me saying he and Mike H. were bottling a batch of beer they had brewed earlier. I stayed in my room for a while then suddenly grabbed my phone (camera) and went down to the kitchen. I got to spend two lovely hours talking and taking pictures of these young men while they bottled their cream stout beer. Mike loved asking me questions about Evan as a child. Evan groaned and Mike laughed about Evan’s climbing prowess and escape abilities at ten months.  This made for a very congenial evening. A toast at the end with flat beer and Mike commented, “I know you don’t see it because you aren’t here all the time, but the whole house gets lighter when a mom visits. There is just something about a mom, even if it isn’t your mom.”  (Another new fully grown son!)

I have had time to reflect on all this and I have come up with my own interpretation of the mom-son-priest relationship. God made man and woman to be support and help to each other. In a relationship where the man marries, that support and help comes from the wife. When a son gets married the mother steps back and allows the marriage relationship to flourish. A man who becomes a priest will still need that relationship of support and the benefit of a female perspective. Usually, the woman who suits that role best will be his mother. So a son is a son… for the rest of her life.

BTW. When asked if I would call Evan “Father” after ordination, I cheerfully reply “Of course, Father Sweetheart”

-Mom C.

Private Prayer in Public Places

Your mileage may vary but for our family, prayer tends to be a more private experience. We pray with the community in Mass or at Church events of course, but for the rest of the time we pray in our heads or quietly as a couple at home. When we were a younger family Kevin and I would insist on have a thanksgiving prayer before a meal, even at restaurants (we still do). This action, complete with the sign of the cross, caused more than one stare from other tables and some feeling of discomfort for us. The majority population of Utah does not use the sign of the cross in prayer so it marks us as outsiders the moment we make that motion. But we are Catholic and we were not going to hide it. Occasionally it brings a smile from a fellow Catholic, mostly just questioning eyebrows, but we do it anyway.

If the sign of the cross marked you as different, you can understand that a rosary was positively scary to the local population.

Sunday evening Kevin complained about an upset stomach, he had been mentioning it since Monday so we thought he had “a bug”. What was different now was a fever that was rising rapidly. My suggestion of going to the hospital was countered with offering to call a good friend who is a registered nurse. A telephone consultation with a few abdominal probes brought the response “Go to the ER, NOW!” Never one to ignore a girlfriend (his, not mine, long story, totally innocent) we were in the car and on our way.

A couple hours later it is one in the morning and I am alone in the waiting room outside surgery.  You guessed it, appendicitis. A very well renowned gastroenterologist was on call and putting  Kevin out for the count. The waiting room is actually a hall way in the hospital I use to work in. At one a.m. it is very quiet but also very public. The TV has a picture but no sound. A quick search reveals no remote. The buttons on the TV give no results. I find the only none chair (a small two-seater couch with metal arms) I pull out my rosary and curl up. Out in the quite public hallway.

There is a chapel on the same floor but on the other end of the hospital. It’s pretty but non-denominational and filled with literature for the local culture and not much else so I opted not to go pray there. I also didn’t want to be far from the OR when anyone came looking for me. It was probably my most private prayer in a most public place.

Thankfully surgery went well and  Kevin was discharged by mid-morning and recuperating at home. Since it all occurred late at night we didn’t notify anyone till the next morning. Even without having family or friends it was okay. I could handle being by myself because I never am really alone. The Lord is always at my side.

– Mom

My Baby’s Face

Every 8-23-05- 1901new mother loves taking photos of their baby. That new face inspires a fascination that never goes away, no matter how old they are. This week my baby’s face was added to the Paulist website under novice and student bios. I think he is the most handsome face on the page but I allow myself some personal bias on that point. Evan’s favorite food -Indian- a no brainer, his saint -St. Michael- of course, the call to the Priesthood: he had expressed all that to us a long time ago. Then t I took a moment to read all the other novice and student bios. Reading all the info on all the other students and novices was eye-opening. All the different ways that they came to hear and respond to God’s call in their lives. God really meets each of us where we are. It made me feel how they are all someone’s baby and that In the bigger picture, we are all God’s babies. Looking for Christ in the face of everyone we come across is easier when you realize how we are all truly the children of God.

— Mom

Change of Life Indeed

160px-Stack_of_coins_0214I have always joked with the adage “If you are going to go, go big”. Didn’t mean to do it quite to this degree in my life.

Evan leaves this week and that alone is a major life change. Fr. Clarence (our parish priest) mentioned to us that although other people have children move away, this is different. The largest difficulty that our priest’s family experienced was that he was no longer available for time normally considered family times (Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) Evan is now, as Fr. Clarence was then, joining a new community, a new family. And effectively leaving our family. Just as Hannah prayed for Samuel and then gave him to the Lord (Samuel 1:27-28), so too, I prayed for Evan and now must give him to the Lord. NOT EASY. I admire Hannah but don’t feel as sure as she was. Guess I have to work on that. Pray for me.

I’m experiencing another change; the one most commonly associated with the phrase “the change”. After almost 28 years of marriage using natural family planning (sympto-thermal method) I am officially post menopausal. For those who are familiar with the method, this now means that we are now permanently post ovulatory. Quite a change after two years of almost constant pre-ovulatory rules. I am probably one of the few people I know who has undergone a natural path to menopause and I know I am the only person of my acquaintance who couldn’t wait to be post menopausal. I have always loved the method and glad my husband and I practiced it. I think it made us closer. I do wonder how long till I stop checking my “symptoms”. I thank the Lord that I married a man brave enough and confident enough in our love to practice our faith together in all aspects of our lives.

And just because I don’t have enough stress in my life (or maybe because I do) I quit my career of 28 years as a clinical laboratory scientist. I spent 24 of those years were at the same laboratory. I have been feeling called to something and praying desperately for guidance. I was presented with an opportunity to assist with formation at our church. My career would not allow me the time or freedom to really involve myself. My husband and I worked at me finding alternate employment that would allow me an out with enough income to not stress us in a new way. I have become the print-shop assistant at  The Davis Applied Technology College. The same place my husband works and where I did a two year stint as a night phlebotomy instructor.  (Insert your own vampire joke here.)

I know the people at the college as friends already, and love being creative and working with big machines. It is a perfect fit. The salary is a third that of my prior job but my (wonderful) husband and I looked over the budget and decided to cut some and make the leap. I will not miss the stress of my former job; you can only worry about life-altering consequences of your actions so long. I will miss terribly all the phenomenal friends that I will no longer see on a regular basis. I cried as I cleared out my locker after the wonderful “so long” party all my co-workers gave me.

Now for the next phase. New physical conditions, new family conditions, new work conditions, new volunteer conditions, same glorious husband, same loving Lord. Thank you Lord

– Mom

I’m not ready yet

IMG_0317Oh my gosh! He leaves in less than a month. I have things I wanted to do first. Panic sets in.

Okay. Deep breaths. Everyone’s children leave the nest. It is not like he has lived with us for a while. Actually he has not stayed here for any meaningful time period since summer after freshman year of college four years ago. However, there is an additional sorrow for me watching him going across the country. It feel like he is leaving all over again.

To fix my crazies, I decided to finish one project for him that I had set out to do ages ago, a chaplet for St. Michael. He has always had a special devotion to angels and St. Michael in particular. Just as a reminder, a chaplet is a a set of beads used in a intercessory prayer. Most people are very familiar with the most common chaplet, the rosary. Not as many know that there are actually many chaplets devoted to different saints and even to different orders.   I wanted to make a St. Michael’s chaplet for Evan before he left.

I sat down the next day with my jewelry making tool and all my supplies (I found a great website that sells all the stuff you need to make both cord and metal linked rosaries and chaplets called Catholicparts.com) and got to it. The small beads are black glass with an iridescent finish and the large beads are silver with a picture of St. Michael on one side and a Guardian Angel on the other. I had a St. Michael three-way connector but no religious metal to put on the end. The problem was solved by raiding Evan’s old treasure box in the studio closet. I took one of the many St. Michael metals from within and finished the chaplet.

That treasure box was a hindsight 20/20 flash on Evan’s religious bend. It is filled with religious metals, rings, rosaries and other religious articles he had picked up over the years, most with either angels, St. Michael, or crosses on them. We never knew he had them till we packed up his stuff when he moved. Kind of made me laugh to find all these treasures.

The chaplet is finished and was handed to Evan with instructions to get it blessed. He seem pleased. I was very happy that he would have something I made for him to go with him to D.C.

Panic over.

–Mom

First notice

“Mom, I’m thinking of changing majors, engineering isn’t right”

“Have you thought of being a priest?”

“Funny you should say that”

Thanksgiving vacation, our son visiting during break of sophomore year, a life changing conversation. This was when our son introduced to us the fact that he was in conversation with the Paulist priests and was contemplating a vocation.

As a catholic mom, you want to keep religious life forward as a possibility but somehow you never really expect it when it happens. Now what? Did he need help from us? What is going through his mind to entice him to this life? Is there anywhere to go to get answers? The answer to the last on is a resounding NO. As vocation is a very personal call, no two calls will be the same. Additionally, I never imagined how it would impact my faith journey personally.

I flirted with the thought of religious life while in college and, in re-exploring those memories, and the new events in our life, have gone on a journey of my own to define my life and the vocations in that life. Two years later, I still don’t have answers but understand a few of the questions better.

–Mom