A Prayer That Has Yet To Be Answered
I get it. My kids’ unrelenting naughtiness is my cross to bare. For those of us who are open to allowing the Lord into our hearts, we understand that suffering moves us closer to Him. Attempting to bring one, two, or three of my children to Sunday mass can sometimes be so tortuous that I think it could put me on the path to sainthood. Alas, I am no saint and try as I might, I will never be one.
We’re all human, we all live on this earth, and we all experience suffering in one way or another so we might as well use it to deepen our relationship with God. I was blessed with three beautiful children and I am grateful for them each and every day. I couldn’t love anyone or anything more but that doesn’t mean they don’t try my patience at every corner so believe me, I have prayed many times for the right approach to get them to fall in line.
Perhaps I’ve been too stubborn to hear God’s answer. Allowing yourself to truly listen to Him can be a complicated thing. Perhaps He hasn’t given me an answer yet and I have a bit longer to wait.
In the Beginning
As an adult, I didn’t even start going to church until after my first child was born. I was raised Lutheran and my mom would take us to church sporadically when I was younger but my dad never liked going so he kept his personal relationship with God at home. Throughout my teen years, belief in God was there but He was always in the background and He didn’t have much of an influence on my life as a young adult either.
I considered myself to be Christian and I married a man who was raised Jewish but it was more of a cultural identity for him. He didn’t practice his faith or any other form of religion and to this day, he is more of an agnostic than anything else. There are a few occasions where he has prayed with our family but as far as his inner prayer life, I have no idea what that is like or if it even exists. It’s not my place to question where his faith stands, that is between him and God.
We chose to skip the whole traditional wedding thing and had an awesome elopement in Huntington Beach, California. At the very least, I knew I wanted to be married by a man of God. My husband didn’t care either way, getting hitched at a courthouse would’ve been fine with him. We ended up being married by a non-denominational pastor with our photographers as our witnesses. It was simple, beautiful, and beyond romantic.
When it came time to baptize my little girl, I started looking for the “right” church that I could eventually call my home. This was the beginning of being pulled into a more meaningful relationship with God. I had this precious baby in my arms and by wanting to give her a life full of purity and love, what better way could I do that than through the love of Jesus?
Call it whatever you want, “born-again Christian” or “spiritual rebirth,” but I suddenly became sorry for all of my high school and college antics. Don’t doubt me, I had lived a fun-filled, borderline out-of-control life in those previous years so I had plenty to be sorry for. It was a spring-break-everyday kind of lifestyle and I have a butterfly tramp stamp, as some might call it, on my mid-lower back to prove it. And that is the only proof or further explanation anybody is going to get!
Why the Catholic Church?
My daughter was baptized in the Lutheran Church but the more I began to take my religion seriously, the more I began to question where I belonged. I was perplexed by all of the different denominations out there that interpreted the Bible in several different ways. A lot of the churches I visited were filled with cafeteria Christians who would pick and choose what they wanted to believe so it would better fit within their own lifestyle. This one believed that, that one believed this…Truth is not relative so none of it made sense to me.
I am not saying that any of these denominations are completely wrong or that one church is better than the other in the eyes of God. I truly do not believe that and I’m not trying to question anyone’s faith or why they believe what they believe, even those who believe in nothing at all. But I personally needed to go back to how the bible was interpreted before all of the Protestant splits took place, back to the very beginning of Christianity. It was important for me to practice my faith in the way the church was set up in that moment of time following the death and resurrection of our Lord.
The doctrine (not dogma) of the Catholic church has been upheld for two thousand years and it has and never will change. That is what drew me in and it was what I needed to feel secure in my own faith. That is how I found my way to the Catholic Church.
I am not telling you this to debate Christian theology, to defend Catholicism when it’s viewed by some to be just another religious occult, or to discuss the existence of God in the first place. I am simply answering a question for those who may be curious as to my own reasoning for why I converted to Catholicism as an adult.
For the most part, I found my way there on my own. My sister had recently been married into the Catholic Church but she was still fairly new to it at the time. No one else in my entire family was or is Catholic nor were any of my friends. My husband certainly wasn’t with me on this journey either and though I think he may have worried about how it was changing our marriage, he supported my conversion nonetheless.
I still got a lot of pushback from friends and family because there are many misconceptions that people have regarding the Church. There were a few things I, too, had to grapple with but once I understood the meaning behind certain practices, I saw the beauty in all of the traditions and the steady doctrine that the Church had to offer.
Raising My Children In the Faith
As much as I would love for my husband to believe in Jesus, that is just not something you can push onto another person. I can pray for him and by being the light of Christ myself, maybe one day his heart will be open to accepting Him in. I am in no hurry though, because that is not how it works and I realize how important it is to be patient since it may not happen for many, many years. That being said, raising my children in the faith falls completely on my shoulders alone.
I am beyond thankful my husband is allowing me to raise our kids in the Catholic faith. Had he been against it, I imagine it would have caused some major strife in our marriage as it typically does when couples have differing strong beliefs.
I know that faith starts at home and I do my best when it comes to teaching my kids about God but I can’t do it all on my own. Children learn so much by example and though they see me praying and going to mass every Sunday, they also see my unapologetic, foul-mouthed husband staying home.
I love my husband like crazy and he’s a great dad who puts his family first above all else, but he can be a bit arrogant and vulgar at times. It’s just who he is, I can’t change that and I don’t really care to. However, I do wish he’d make a stronger effort to filter the things he says around our children.
My husband grew up in a family that told it like it is and they didn’t care if you were offended or not. We are different in that way because I feel it is so important to preserve a child’s innocence for as long as you can. My husband doesn’t disagree with this concept necessarily, it’s just that his idea of what is innocent widely varies from mine.
Struggling with daddy being a little mischievous and unfiltered now and then, along with living in today’s messed up world, puts me in dire need of additional Christian support. That is why it was so important for me to put my children into a Catholic school. We have made HUGE sacrifices to keep them there throughout their elementary school years and it has not been easy but it has been so worth it.
Public schools have completely wiped out God, prayer, and just about every moral teaching there is. Had both my husband and I been devoted to Jesus, practicing our faith together as a family, it probably wouldn’t matter what school our kids went to. But since this is not the case, I desperately needed something more consistent than a Sunday school class to help me give my children a daily dose of Christianity.
I wanted to explain all of this to you so you can understand why I would even bring my kids to church with me in the first place. I know that when Sunday rolls around, there is a 100% chance that my kids will disrupt my own worship time and a 99% chance that they will do something to annoy the other parishioners during mass.
Catholic mass is not always an easy thing to get through if you don’t understand the significance behind each part within the mass. Truth be told, it can be pretty boring. However, we don’t go there to be entertained. We go to worship, to reflect, to repent, to pray and to partake in the sacrament of Holy Communion.
By bringing my kids to church at an early age, I feel it will help to familiarize them with the mass and at the very least, provide a basis for gaining a deeper knowledge in the faith as they get older.
Kids In the Church
The Catholic Church doesn’t have typical Sunday school on a Sunday, at least not any that I’ve ever been aware of. Their faith classes take place on other days of the week but there are certain times throughout the year where the children will be led off into the chapel during mass before the Gospel reading. The Gospel is then broken down into kid-friendly language and then the kids are sent back to their parents in the pews once the priest has finished his homily (sermon). They do have nurseries for the younger children and babies but most Catholics make Sunday mass a family affair regardless.
Just because kids are encouraged to attend mass, that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier for me. Of course, my husband doesn’t go there with me so I have to bring the kiddos on my own. He would just be a fourth kid I’d have to deal with anyway. There have been many times where he’d sit in our church for my daughter’s confirmation, Christmas concerts, or band concerts and I can’t say it was always pleasant. If he wasn’t playing some game on his phone the whole time, he would be making embarrassing snapchats with one of the boys. Seriously.
As much as I’d like to bring all three of my littles to church with me at the same time, it’s a stupid idea. I know this because the idiot in me has tried it several times before, always hopeful that their promises to behave will stick. Ha, ha. Even with two of them, this is what I get:
- Fighting over who gets to sit where next to mommy.
- Fighting over who gets to put the money in the offering basket.
- Fighting or playing loudly with the tiny toys or small books they bring along to keep them occupied.
- Crawling under the pews to get said toy that is repeatedly being dropped accidentally.
- Banging their head underneath the pews and crying, climbing on the pews, or slamming the kneelers down.
- Giggling hysterically over the man’s butt-crack in front of us, causing me to have a laughing fit myself and therefore, I end up looking just as rude as my kids do.
- Digging in my purse, dropping the song books on the floor, pulling, pinching, jumping up and down if they don’t get to do what they want.
- And my all-time favorite, when they drop a rotten fart bomb in the middle of a packed church.
Lately, I’ve been rotating my kids, bringing one at a time with me to church and that seems to help. They do get better as they get older but as they get older, they also aren’t clamoring to go to church with mommy as much, unless I’m going shopping afterwards of course.
I can use going somewhere after church as leverage to get them to behave during mass but I have to walk a fine line with this because I don’t want it to turn into a bribe to get them to go with me in the first place. Sometimes I’ll try upping it a notch though, by asking my children what they heard the priest talk about after the gospel reading and if they were able to pay enough attention to it, allow them to come along on my errands.
A Divine Sacrifice
I could have a nice, quiet church-going experience if I didn’t bring them. I might actually be able to hear the readings myself and ponder their meanings if I sat alone. Sunday mass would be less of a blur, struggling to get through the liturgy while my kids keep asking me, “when is it going to be over?” Then finally making it to the sacrament of communion and getting the heck out of dodge.
There is a sense of guilt there, of course, by just making an appearance and not getting much out of it. For sure the guilt would be far worse though, if I was selfish enough to go alone, leaving my kids’ precious souls behind while I nurtured my own.
I may not get to worship the way I’d like to when I bring my kids to church with me but that is not the end all, be all. Obviously, I can pray whenever I’d like, at home or in the car, while my kids are busy playing at a park…I can read scripture or spiritual books and I can meditate in prayer with the holy rosary.
Yes, for now it feels like I’m only showing up to mass for the sacrament but it won’t be like this forever simply because my kids won’t be kids forever. One day, I will be that little, old gray-haired woman sitting alone in her pew with her liturgy book clutched in her soft, arthritic hand, listening intently to every word that’s read and every song that is sung.
Laying the Foundation
I will continue to thank the Lord for giving me the grace to push through the difficulties of bringing my little ones to church with me. Years from now, I will look back and be grateful for what I have given my children. They may not have listened, they may not have understood, but they were there. And God was there with them (not that He ever leaves but you know what I mean).
It’s possible that my children will carry the Lord with them throughout their whole lives. It’s also possible that He may only be in the background, like He was for me all of those years. I hope not, but that is not something that is within my control.
All I can do is pray for my children and have faith. It was the mother of Saint Augustine of Hippo who prayed relentlessly for her wild and crazy son to return to the Church. He credited her prayers and unwavering faith, in part, for leading him back to God. Had it not been for his mother’s love of God, Saint Augustine may not be one of the most notable saints today.
I will never be the perfect mom. I will make the wrong choices sometimes while I’m raising my children. I will fall and fall again within my own faith. Then I will have to pick myself up and start all over, maybe trying a little bit harder the next time around. So that’s it, really. Keep trying, do my best, and have a little faith that something good will come from it.
As mothers, we do all that we can to protect our children’s bodies, minds, hearts, futures and innocence. As a mother of faith, I can think of nothing more important than doing all that I can to protect the souls of my very own beloved cherubs.
Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.