Saturday, at our house, was one of those days everyone would rather forget, the kind where everyone ends up yelling, crying, or both, and harsh voices obscure the love that fills our house. Our family was still somewhat tense on Sunday morning, as my husband and I tersely gave instructions to the tiny people and each other to get ready for Mass. It was an uncommonly quiet van ride to church.
Mr. Man and Baby Guy were both having snuggly mornings; we actually had to roust Mr. Man, who would have been happier sleeping until noon or so. Anger in our household upsets his sleep, and he had been up at strange hours Saturday night and the wee hours of Sunday morning. When we arrived at our parish, Mr. Man was odoriferous, and my husband gallantly grabbed the diaper bag to change him so I could take the girls for a potty run before Mass began, then go find a place for our family to sit.
As it happened, the only available space that would accommodate our family of six was the pew directly behind the altar servers. That particular location has been the site of some memorable Mass disasters, including the only Mass I can remember when we didn’t even make it through the homily. I settled the girls in the pew and Baby Guy on my lap, and wished the lovely lady who always serves at 9:30 Mass a good morning and happy Easter. My husband and Mr. Man joined us a minute or so later, just in time for the opening strains of “Alleluia, Alleluia.”
We did not have an auspicious start, as Beanie decided it would be fun to repeatedly raise her dress and flash her Hello Kitty panties to the entire congregation (the pew directly behind the altar servers is in full view for the entire church). After a sharp rebuke from me, followed by a stern warning about the potential consequences if she expressed her displeasure at my admonition by screaming, my husband, the girls and I bowed our heads in prayer. Mr. Man and his blankie were snuggled up on my husband’s shoulder, and Baby Guy cuddled in my arms, playing a little quiet peekaboo with the two venerable and veiled ladies behind us.
After the Liturgy of the Word, we found that we had a visiting priest for the homily; the priest who is the director of the Office of Vocations. The Lord has been known to send precisely the help we need, as my regular readers know, and Father Bashista was that help yesterday. His homily was a brilliant explanation of the concept that every single person in God’s creation has a vocation, a calling. Some are called to be priests, holy brothers and sisters, or deacons, but far more are called to be parents, husbands, wives, and friends who live Gospel.
A vocation, you see, is not necessarily the job a person does that brings financial recompense. A vocation is the work the Lord has destined a person to do, to bring joy on earth and in Heaven. Each of us who believes in Christ has the general vocation to be granted Heaven not only for ourselves, but also for as many of our fellow men and women as possible. While I would be overjoyed if one or more of our children had a calling to a religious vocation, and my husband and I pray that the Lord will so choose, we are trying to train them all up to find joy in a life that finds its greatest joy not in the latest gadget, not in the biggest house, not in the most impressive paycheck, but in time spent in love and service to others.
Halfway through that homily, which captured even Bugaboo and Beanie’s attention, Father Bashista reminded us that the great vocation of husbands and wives is to help each other attain Heaven, by strengthening each other’s faith and setting a holy example for our children. I sneaked a peek sideways and saw that my husband and I were doing the same thing — looking at our shoes and trying to look at each other out of the corners of our eyes. We shared a pair of sheepish, apologetic smiles.
When the homily concluded, we held our daughters’ hands more tenderly than usual during the “Our Father,” and shared the gentlest kisses of peace with them. “Peace be with you” and an embrace ended what may have been the worst and most potentially destructive argument in the history of our household.
After Mass, after we had buckled four tiny people into the van, my husband and I shared a long hug and a mutual apology in the parking lot before we headed for home. Sunday was a day of rest from many things, but most of all from the stress of strife brought on by petty things.
Today’s prayer: Lord, You reminded us yesterday that our most vicious disagreements come when we forget, or disregard, the vocations for which You have chosen us. You called us to be spouses to each other and parents to Your blessings, and You call us to raise them in love and service, not in selfishness and spite. Please kep us mindful always that no matter how much of Your word we read to them, the lessons they will learn best are the ones they see. Please bless them with the memory of how hurtful angry words hurled over trivialities can be, and with the memory of the joy and mercy true forgiveness brings. Your Son gave His life so that we could be forgiven. We are rarely asked for so profound a sacrifice; help us teach Your blessings that pride, envy, and avarice are things to be cast aside, and that sacrificing them to further Your Kingdom is no sacrifice, but a blessing.