"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Two on a Tire

Does it make you dizzy to watch?

Uncovering Sanctity

For quite awhile now, Eva has been copying most of what Maia does - good and bad alike. But it wasn't until just recently that Eva marched into the kitchen and proudly handed me a drawing she'd made, saying " 'ang it up, 'ang it up!" (Eva's great at talking, but she omits her h's.) We have a little ledge in the kitchen where we put Maia's artwork. So I put Eva's up on the ledge as well, and have continued to do this nearly every day since then.

A week later or so, I was doing a routine clearing-off of the ledge and deciding which pictures to keep. Maia produces so much artwork that we simply can't keep it all, but some are so good that I can't bear to let go of them, and I usually staple them together into a book. Without really thinking about it, I put all of Eva's pictures into the throw-away pile. After all, compared to Maia's art, Eva's pictures are just scribbles.

Of course, anyone would say that it's unfair to compare a 4.5 year old's artwork with an almost 2 year old's drawing. Obviously I knew this, and I laughed at myself for unconsciously favoring Maia's artistic skill over Eva's.

But later I was thinking about being a child of God and the lives of the saints (yes, this is what I think about when I'm running on the treadmill). I was thinking about what makes Eva's and Maia's artwork different: Maia's has recognizable shapes and forms and she is able to actualize her intentions. In other words, she has a clear end in mind when she's drawing. Sometimes the picture is truer to her idea, and sometimes she's disappointed. But she knows what she's doing when she sits down to draw. Perhaps Eva does too and is just unable to actualize her intentions, but regardless, we can say that Eva's drawings appear to be only scribbles.

It occurred to me that some who strive for sanctity - especially the beginners - merely write scribbles whereas the more practiced can draw recognizable images. We who are early on the path lack the attention to detail and the understanding of how each mark fits with an overall picture. And yet God appreciates both the scribbles and the pictures, regardless of our human judgment. God knows when failure (sin) is not hypocrisy, but human weakness. God notices our progress, even when others fail to see. God understands how we are trying to fit the marks into an overall picture, and God can probably even see the picture before we can. Moreover, God can recognize great artwork even when those with a close-up view can't make out anything from the images.

On All Saints' Day I heard a great homily that included a true story that I saw as connected to this. My husband confirmed it with his students that are associated with the order, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (Gray Friars). They had just purchased a convent from some Dominican sisters who no longer had the population to keep it. In the process of moving in, they were moving the bones of the long-deceased buried below and respectfully interring them elsewhere. In the process of doing this, the Gray Friars made a few discoveries. They came upon the prioress of the congregation, whose head was incorrupted. The rest of her body was decomposed, but she, as the head, had still a perfect head. Then they came upon an incorrupted hand on a decomposed body; upon research, they learned that this particular nun had been an icon painter. Her hand that had spent so much time painting sacred images, was just as it had been. Then, with nothing but bones to left and to the right, they came upon a completely incorrupted entire body. Who was this? Someone important? Not really. It was just the doorkeeper. The woman who had spent her time opening the door and welcoming people to the convent. But she must have done a good job at it, eh?

On the Solemnity of All Saints, this woman served as a good reminder to us that there are many holy people who are not officially canonized saints. Or we might say, there are many excellent artists who spent their entire lives perfecting their art, giving their lives to God, and supernaturalizing the everyday (yes, there's even a holy way to open up a door). Many are not recognized either in their lifetimes or after for what they have done, and yet, they are not forgotten in the Kingdom of Heaven.

God knows when scribbles are just scribbles and when scribbles are actually his children's first steps to something greater. In the latter case, even these pictures are worth hanging up on the ledge. They are reminders that no one starts off as a saint, and as a confessor recently told me, God smiles at our efforts.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Chapel Time

Earler this week when I picked up Maia from nursery school, I noticed, per the notice board, that the kids had enjoyed some "chapel time" that day. I mentioned last year in my blog my concerns about Maia attending preschool at a Methodist church. To be clear, the school is not Methodist, but the school is a ministry of the Methodist church at which it is located. It's sort of generically Christian, if there is such a thing... what I mean is it's a kind of watered down, unspecific sort of Christianity that the kids are exposed to there.

Anyway, chapel time. So when I picked up Maia, the teacher told me that everyone was impressed with how Maia knew the names of items in the church, like "pew." On the way home Maia and I had a conversation about the church's interior, which I've actually never seen.

TM: So did the church look like ours?

M: It had pews like ours all lined up facing the front.

TM: Did it have an altar at the front?

M: Sort of.

TM: Was there an ambo - you know, the place where they read the Bible from?

M: They had something like that, but it was all the way at the back.

TM: Really? The back? That's funny. So was there a tabernacle?

M: Nope, no tabernacle.

TM: That's because they don't have Jesus there. (Pause as I consider what I just said...) What I mean is, they don't have Jesus present in the Eucharist inside the church, so that's why they don't have a tabernacle.

Later, at home, we renewed the conversation as Maia was coloring the coloring page of a church sent home with her from school.

TM: What's that you drew on the steeple of the church?

M: It's a cross. I think they forgot to put the cross on this church, so I added it for them.

TM: Pretty windows. Is that what they looked like in the church you saw today?

M: Well, the windows were stain glass, you know, like in our church, only they didn't have pictures on them.

TM: What, no pictures? You mean no saints?

M: No saints, Mom, and no angels either! Isn't that strange?

TM: What are you drawing on there now?

M: That's Mary. I'm drawing a statue of Mary on the top of their church because they didn't have any statues of her in their church.

TM: Nice job, Maia.

I think she did a pretty good job Catholicizing the picture.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Patrick's Baptism

When we scheduled Patrick's baptism, we thought he'd be about four weeks old at his baptism. That seemed like a good age, as I'm the kind of person who prefers not to delay baptism. Since Patrick ended up being 11 days late, he was only two weeks at his baptism. That was fine by me, but admittedly a bit awkward as we ended up having to invite people to the baptism before he'd been born. A couple of our guests even joked it was the first time they'd been invited to an unborn baby's baptism. Anyway, it all worked out in the end, although at one point during the ceremony Maia decided that she and Eva should run off to the side of the Church by themselves. Neither Jeff nor I could chase them since we were standing up in the front. Fortunately our neighbor Anna was there, and she caught them for us.

Go, Dog, Go!

One of Jeff's and my first arguments as parents was in regards to whether or not the book Go, Dog, Go! has a plot. I think any sensible person who read this book would agree with me that it does not have a plot. Jeff, however, has always insisted that the book is a romance between two of the dogs. After not liking her hat at several different occasions, the penultimate pages have the male dog liking the female dog's party hat, and they drive off into the sunset together.

While we had family in town for Patrick's baptism, an account of our disagreement on this book arose and we ended up reading the book aloud over dinner. I should say Tia Carla read the book aloud because Jeff was convinced he could read it in such a way that the plot was emphasized, and I was convinced I could read it in such a way that it was clear there is absolutely no plot. Carla had never read the book, so she was the neutral party.

Following the reading, we took a vote as to whether or not it has a plot. The results were a clear male-female split. All males present (3) voted that it did have a plot (although Tio Kyle said it was not a romance, but the narrative of a pilgrimage where the climax is the dog party in the tree). All females present (4) voted that it did not have a plot.

What do my readers think?

St. Baby Patrick

Eva is still getting used to having a little brother. She tries to be gentle, she really does, but it's just a little hard for someone her age (now 23 months). Sometimes I think she thinks of Patrick as a little animal - a puppy or something.

Over the weekend, my friend Carla was watching Patrick downstairs while Eva and I were putting away laundry upstairs. Patrick was asleep, so Carla put him in his carseat so she could go to the bathroom. She told me she had done it, and I thought I was watching Eva, but then Maia came into my bedroom and all of the sudden I heard Eva screaming from downstairs. I thought for sure she had injured herself very seriously, and, of course I was surprised because I didn't know she was downstairs in the first place. So I ran down the stairs, and the first thing I saw was the carseat... EMPTY. Eva was still screaming, and she was squealing "I hurt the baby Patrick!!!" I looked down, and Patrick was laying on his belly next to the dining room table, pretty much still asleep. I guess it was a close call. I've learned it's best to strap Patrick in, even if I'm going to be in the room... last week I decided to disassemble and reassemble the crib (out of the girls' room, since Eva can now get out of it, and back into our bedroom so it'll be ready for Patrick), and Eva managed to get Patrick out of the swing, even though he was secured by the closed tray.

Today I looked over to see Eva leaning over Patrick asleep in his carseat and blessing him "I bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit," just like our parental blessings, which at night involve holy water. How sweet, I was thinking to myself. Then I wondered what was in Eva's other hand... a sippy cup of apple cider was the answer, and why did Patrick's head look so wet and sticky? Oh, she had blessed him with apple cider, of course. It became very clear when she started doing an aspersion with the apple cider. Well, more laundry.

We all think it's great that Patrick is named after St. Patrick. Patrick even got an awesome St. Patrick statue for his baptism. But Eva can't seem to keep the Patricks straight. She's started referring to Patrick as "St. Baby Patrick." Maybe that's an improvement from calling him "the Patrick."