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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Circumstances of our lives...cheerfully borne

"In a way of course taking care of your own, children and grandchildren, is taking care of your self. On the other hand there is the sacrament of duty as Father McSorley calls it. There is great joy in being on the job, doing good works, performing the works of mercy. But when you get right down to it, a work which is started personally often ends up by being paper work--writing letters, seeing visitors, speaking about the work while others do it. One can become a veritable Mrs. Jellyby, looking after the world and neglecting one's own who are struggling with poverty and hard work and leading, as such families with small children do these days, ascetic lives. There are vigils, involuntary ones, fasting, due to nausea of pregnancy for instance, but St. Angela of Foligno said that penances voluntarily undertaken are not half so meritorious as those imposed on us by the circumstances of our lives and cheerfully borne.

The christian life is certainly a paradox. The teaching of St. John of the Cross (which was for beginners, he said) is of the necessity for detachment from creatures; of the need of travelling light through the dark night.

Most of us have not the courage to set out on this path wholeheartedly, so God arranges it for us.

It would seem to the unthinking that mothers of children, whether of one or a dozen, are intensely preoccupied with creatures; their little ones, food, clothing, shelter, matters that are down to earth and grossly material such as dirty diapers, dishes, cooking, cramming baby mouths with food, etc. Women's bodies, heavy with children, dragged down by children, are a weight like a cross to be carried about. From morning until night they are preoccupied with cares but it is care for others, for the duties God has given them. It is a road once set out upon, from which there is no turning back. Every woman knows that feeling of not being able to escape, of the inevitability of her hour drawing ever nearer. This path of pain is woman's lot. It is her glory and her salvation. She must accept.

We try to escape, of course, either habitually or occasionally. But we never can. The point I want to make is that a woman can achieve the highest spirituality and union with God through her house and children, through doing her work which leaves her no time for thought of self, for consolation, for prayer, for reading, for what she might consider development. She is being led along the path of growth inevitably. But she needs to be told these things, instructed in these things, for her hope and endurance, so that she may use what prayer she can, to cry out in the darkness of the night.

Here is her mortification of the senses:

Her eyes are affronted by disorder, confusion, the sight of human ailments, and human functions. Her nose also; her ears tormented with discordant cries, her appetite failing often; her sense of touch in agony from fatigue and weakness.

Her interior senses are also mortified. She is alone with her little ones, her interest adapted to theirs; she has not even the companionship of books. She has no longer the gay companions of her youth (their nerves can't stand it). So she has solitude, and a silence from the sounds she'd like to hear, conversation, music, discussion.

Of course there are consolations and joys. Babies and small children are pure beauty, love, joy--the truest in this world. But the thorns are there of night watches, of illnesses, of infant perversities and contrariness. There are glimpses of heaven and hell."

On Pilgrimage, January, Dorothy Day

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A new perspective. A new hope.

Hello everyone. Hopefully this post finds you all well and assures you that I am not dead and still doing good. I have not felt the pull to write until recently though, I can't be sure I'll resume blogging full time.
We have not yet found our homestead and recently decided to stop looking. I'm about 3 months out from having our fourth child, and second son, and since the whole house search has been so disastrous, we've decided to stay put until after he arrives. The ongoing saga for a home has consumed us for the last few months as we felt confidant the Lord would provide us with a home before the baby came. I can't even tell you how much more money and time we sunk into this search only to have our hopes crushed. I think it's finally clear; we're not to move right now. I've been reading 'The Imitation of Christ' and in addition to just feeling bad about our situation, I feel bad about feeling bad instead of offering it all up and thanking the Lord for this opportunity to suffer. Slowly, a feeling of hope is arising as I know that some good will come out of this as it always has in the past or I'm knocking some time off purgatory so long as I can not be a whiny wuss about it all.
After talking with a priest friend this past weekend, I'm trying to focus on the good things God has given us right now and how I can utilize those gifts for His ends. Of course I still have lofty goals of homesteading and service to the poor but the homestead has not appeared nor has the free time to run off to Camden. And it stinks having my husband's hard earned salary sitting as devaluing American dollars in a bank account instead of invested in crops, animals, tools and say, 50lb bags of rice and grain. In an apartment, we are at the mercy of the stores and the landlord.
But, I have three wonderful children, with a healthy fourth on the way. I'm surviving the homeschool day. My marriage is great. We have a great traditional parish with lots of friends who share our strong Catholic beliefs. Our kids are constantly busy with other Catholic, homeschooled kids. My husbands job is secure, we're saving money and we do have a nice roof over our heads. If I wasn't aware of Catholic Worker ideals, distributism, simple, agrarian values, etc. I would have no room to complain. (I still shouldn't.)
My husband and I are always planning and actively working towards our goals. The thought of 'sitting still' and just letting the chips fall for the next few months is nerve wracking but I have to assume at this point that what ever God has in store for us, outside the wonderful life he's already provided us with, will have to come in His time by His means. No amount of frantic searching on our part can speed along God's plan.
So what does it all mean for this 'Next Worker'? I'm not sure. I never wanted to be all talk and no action on Worker principals, which is how I feel. But I need to see the opportunities to 'feed the hungry and clothe the naked' in my own home. (Lord knows there's always hungry and naked people here.) My own children are no less important that children in Camden or Africa or anywhere. If this is where God wants me, then I can't assume my actions mean less than a Worker at Mary House in NYC.
So maybe I'm not the 'Next Worker' at all. Maybe, I've been Working all along and didn't know it. We'll see how it all plays out and how this new viewpoint effects my writing. The family as Workers; who knows?