Tag Archives: holiness

Christ Does Not Call Us To Be June Cleaver


On a perfect day, I would get up well before my family to get dressed and prepare a delicious hot breakfast. I would spend my free time putting the finishing touches on my living room that bears a striking similarity to the one in the latest Martha Stewart magazine, update my personal blog, and finish a sewing project or two. Lunch and dinner would be made entirely from scratch, and exactly as I had planned them out earlier in the week, along with a homemade peach pie for dessert. My “regular” daily routine would not be impeded by these lofty projects; I would still manage a 30-minute workout, a trip to the park, and an art project with the children that is both entertaining and educational. On the spiritual front, I would attend daily Mass (during which my children would sit quietly and be entertained by religious books), and pray the rosary with little to no distractions, internal or external. I would fall into bed at night, tired but fulfilled, with a perfectly clean house and joy in my heart at what the next day will bring.

A far cry from that idealism is a day that involves scrounging through the bare pantry for meals, spending half the morning in pajamas, piles of dirty clothes to wash and clean laundry to fold, dishes piled high in the kitchen, and a few distracted prayers tossed up. There may also be periodic check-ins to favorite home decorating blogs and wistful longings for the day my home will look like theirs.

To be fair, most of our days will end up somewhere in the middle of those two examples. But I still find myself feeling guilty if my day doesn’t more closely resemble the first – a mixture of June Cleaver and St. Therese. Why?

Perfectionism. Like many women, I have high expectations of myself, often unrealistic. And like many, I have subconsciously bought into the worldly idea of what a perfect mother looks like: always perfectly dressed and groomed, beautiful and organized home, excellent cooking, fantastically creative and crafty, ever-ready to volunteer.

But perfectionism is a GOOD thing, right!? After all, didn’t Jesus say “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”? (Matthew 5:48) It seems as though we SHOULD be striving for perfection. But what does Christ mean by “perfect”? From the Haydock Bible Commentary:

“Seeing then that we are thus blessed as to be called, and to be the children of so excellent a Father, we should endeavor, like Him, to excel in goodness, meekness, and charity; but above all in humility, which will secure to us the merit of good works, through the infinite merits of our divine Redeemer, Master, and model, Christ Jesus the Lord.” Haydock Bible Commentary on Matt. 5:48

So striving to be perfect means that we strive to be good, meek, charitable, humble: a spiritual kind of perfection. That’s a far cry from the “perfect” that the world calls us to.

We can often fool ourselves into thinking worldly “perfectionism” is virtuous. But perfectionism is a false humility. In true humility, we recognize the limits of our talents and abilities. In the false humility of perfectionism, we believe we should be able to do everything “just so,” that we can do it all ourselves, and we beat ourselves up when we aren’t able to achieve our lofty goals. Perfectionism causes us to do things for our own glory, rather than for the glory of God. With perfectionism, the end is the only thing that matters, and the path we take to get to that end is meaningless. However, if instead we do our actions for God’s glory, then the effort that we put into our work does matter, rather than simply just the finished product. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque said, “It is only necessary to say energetically ‘I will,’ and all will go well.” The path to our goal is as important, if not more important, that the achievement of that goal.

So how can we deal with the perfectionism that creeps into our daily lives, causing us stress and unhappiness, and thwarting our desire to do good?

Prayer. We must avoid worldly perfectionism in prayer; perfectionism is the antithesis of humility, and our prayers must spring from humility in our heart. We must not worry about saying the perfect rosary, completely free from internal distraction. Instead, when our mind wanders, we should gently redirect our thoughts back to our prayer. We should not avoid Mass because we fear our children will distract us and we won’t “get anything out of it.” God will supply where our human efforts fail, as long as we make the effort.

We should also not be discouraged if we cannot spend as much time in prayer as we would like. We are all busy women, many of us wives and mothers, and have many duties to attend to. St. Frances of Rome said,

 “It is most laudable in a married woman to be devout, but she must not forget that she is a housewife; and sometimes she must leave God at the altar to find Him in her housekeeping.”

We can sanctify our souls through our works as well as our prayers. If we say the Morning Offering each day, we offer God all our “works, prayers, joys, and sufferings”; this encompasses everything we will do throughout the day, and thus, all of our works will be offered for God’s glory.

Reflect on the saints and model our lives after them. What were their goals? How did they achieve spiritual perfection, while abandoning the perfectionism of the world? Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” She teaches us to not be frustrated by our inability to do great things, but to embrace the small things we can do. She also says, more specifically, “We cannot do great things, only small things with great love.”

Baby Steps. On a practical level, many times we procrastinate and put off important things because we can’t get it all done – if it won’t be perfect, why bother? We must abandon that mentality, and realize that the small things DO matter, a lot. Our path to eternity is not one long paved road, but many small pebbles that build upon each other, each of those pebbles being our small daily efforts. Just because we’re too tired or busy to do a complicated art project with our children doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything with them – read a short story, or spend just a few minutes on the floor, playing with them. No time to clean the bathroom? Take 2 minutes to clear off the counter, pick the dirty clothes off the floor, and change the toilet paper. If we do each of these small things out of love for God, He will give us grace with each small effort. God doesn’t ask the impossible of us, He asks us to do what we can, when we can.

(For practical household tips, I highly recommend Flylady. She is a huge help for perfectionists, procrastinators, and those who just have trouble keeping a clean and organized house.)

Be realistic. We should have a realistic view about our talents. We shouldn’t compare our homes to those in magazines, especially if we don’t have an eye for interior decorating. If we do our best to make our homes comfortable and inviting, we are serving our family well. If we are not a great cook, then we should concentrate on making something that is healthy and filling, not 5-star restaurant quality, and we should be satisfied with it. That’s not to say we should do the bare minimum: we should certainly strive for excellence. But as the acclaimed P90X trainer Tony Horton says, “Do your best and forget the rest.”

We must remember that at the end of our life, we won’t be judged on how organized our house was, how delicious our meals were, or even how many perfect rosaries we prayed – we will be judged on whether we performed the daily duties of our vocation with love.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? Procrastination? How do you “let go and let God” in your day-to-day life?

Here I Am Lord, Send Me…As Long As It’s Where I Want to Go


“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

The start of a new school year brings many opportunities to serve.  With 5 kids ranging in age from 16-5, who are attending 4 different schools, and all involved in all sorts of different activities, there is an endless list of good and worthy organizations that need volunteers.  Not to mention our amazing Church, which is alive and thriving, and overflowing with ministries constantly calling to the Martha in me.   My husband and I love to serve and especially together.  That is how we met and fell in love so many years ago, so it really renews our sense of purpose and togetherness when we are working together for the Lord.   Personally, I love to serve.  I love to be involved, and I love to be around people.  It is invigorating.

We had decided at the end of the last school year that we would continue to help with High School Faith Formation as our main service once school began again.  Other opportunities came by, and I said no because we already knew where we were supposed to serve.  I knew it would mean that my 12-year-old would have to care for her younger siblings on Sunday evenings, but I reasoned that it was ok because this is where God wanted us.  I knew that my 5-year-old might struggle a little with us not being home as she went to bed on Sunday nights, but again, I thought God could handle it.  We had a great year last year and started to build relationships with some of the young people, so we looked forward to continuing on the journey with them.  We felt peace and satisfaction, even knowing that there would be sacrifices on the part of our family.  Sometimes that is what God calls us to.

At our first HS Catechist meeting, our incredibly excited HS Coordinator laid out his plan for the new youth program, and my husband and I both got sinking feelings in our stomachs.  We quickly saw that this would not be something we could commit to.  It was a wonderful plan, and the youth will benefit from it, but it would require a large chunk of time away from our younger ones on Sunday evenings.  We worked through every possible scenario to see if there was some way we could divide and conquer the commitment.  After MUCH prayer and a little heart-break we discerned that this is not where God wanted us.  I was sad and disappointed and a little frustrated.

Once again, having a large family, with many different ages was keeping me from doing what I wanted to do, what I thought God wanted us to do, and what I thought we would be good at.  How many times over the years have I heard about something worthwhile, and  I couldn’t accept it, or even try for it because of my duties to my family.  What I want to do is different from what God is calling me to.  Which is crazy, because really in my heart of hearts I want to desire His will over mine.  I just get a little lost sometimes in the world of good intentions.  The world tells me that being super mom is what is good, but God tells me being my kids’ mom is what is good.  Giving to each of them all that I can, is what pleases Him most.   There are so many things I want to do or I want to be, and yet the commitment that I’ve made to God and to my kids is where my real sanctification is worked out.  It is in all the times I have to say, “No,” that I know the Lord is working out my salvation.  The Lord put it on my heart long ago to serve my family first.  Whatever gifts and talents He gave me are first for my husband and kids, and then for whomever He puts in my path.  It is in the anonymity of my home, where there are no accolades, that the Lord wants me to be salt and light.

So now that the year has officially begun and I haven’t officially signed up to volunteer anywhere, I realize that I am exactly where I need to be for this season.  As the school year opened up so did the flood gates of tears in my house hold, and I know that right now, right here, my kids need me more than any other group, no matter how good its mission is.  This semester, I am committed to reading to my kindergartener, making sure she gets to bed on time, helping my middle schooler navigate these new waters she is swimming in, not being too busy with “important” stuff to listen to my 4th grader tell me his struggles or listen to his excitement over his Lego creations, and being home in the evenings when my High Schoolers are good and ready to talk.

But, Dear Lord, next semester I’ll have a list ready of all the places you might want to send me.

The Family That Prays Together…


We have all heard the phrase, “The family that prays together, stays together”.  How many of us though have ever really thought about what that phrase truly means?  How many of us have put the phrase into action?   As Catholics, praying together at Mass comes naturally.  But what about at home?  Does it come as easy to us?  Have we been taught to share our prayers with each other?  How often do we ask each other, “will you pray with me?” 

I have noticed that Protestants many times have a much easier time asking someone to come and pray with them.  I’m not talking about saying, “will you pray for me?” but literally taking someone by the hands and saying let’s pray about this right now.  I remember years ago when I went to a volunteer meeting at our local pregnancy resource center and at the end of the meeting one of the women came to me, took me by my hands and said, “I feel for some reason I am supposed to pray with you right now.  Can we pray together?”  Startled,  I shook my head yes, and I think I may have even whispered yes as she closed her eyes and began to pray out loud.  To say I was startled a little bit would be an understatement.  That night I went home and thought about why it shook me up so much.  I came to the conclusion that I had never been in a situation where someone wanted to pray with me instead of for me.  

I thought a lot about my upbringing in the Catholic faith.  Do we encourage prayer together outside of the Mass?  I know that I was never encouraged (I was never discouraged either) to pray with others with the exception of morning prayer at school and prayer before meals.  It made me a little bit sad.  I liked that the woman was so comfortable in her faith and prayer life that she could easily take my hands and say a heartfelt prayer for me.  It touched me and made me want something more. 

As the years have passed and I have tried to incorporate more prayer in my life I have also tried to incorporate it into my family’s life.  I want my children to always feel comfortable praying not only for someone but with someone.  I want them to be able to grasp the hands of another person and pray right then and there.  I want prayer to be ingrained in our lives so much that it is second nature to pray.   I have  gradually incorporated more prayer into our lives.  I thought I would share a few ways that perhaps you can as well.  As our children’s primary educators it is our duty to teach our children our faith and it is our duty to teach our children how to pray.

So, how can you bring more prayer into your family’s life?

  • Begin praying when your children are babies.  Pick a simple prayer and say it every night. 
  • Pray before and maybe even after meals.
  • As your children get older each night pray as a family and ask them what intentions they want to pray for.  You’ll be surprised at the prayer intentions on their hearts!
  • Have objects that are associated with prayer around your home: a bible, rosaries that the kids can handle, prayer cards, holy water, prayer books.
  • Set up a prayer table.  Make sure the prayer table has a special place in your home.   Place a crucifix, candles, a prayer box, perhaps a statue on the table.  Make it a special place they will want to visit.
  • Let your children see you pray!  Our children learn though seeing and when they see us in prayer they naturally turn to prayer as well.
  • When you hear of someone who has been hurt, or see a wreck, stop that minute and say a prayer as a family for the person in need, even if you don’t know them.
  • As time progresses at your nightly prayer introduce a new prayer.  It’s amazing how quickly our children learn prayers when they are said on a regular basis.
  • Pray the rosary.  If your children won’t sit still for a full rosary, pray a decade, but introduce them to the beauty of the rosary. Make sure each child has his or her own rosary to hold.
  • Allow your children to lead prayer.  Let them say either memorized prayers or ones that they make up.  Let their hearts lead them.
  • Pray quietly yourself and in private.  If we want to be able to teach our children to pray we must also be praying on our own. 
  • Pray with your spouse.  Nothing will bring a couple closer than praying together.  When your relationship is healthy and happy it helps the entire family be healthy and happy.

Prayer should be the of the center point of our day.    As St. Teresa of Avila  said, “Our Lord walks among the pots and the pans.”  This means that we can be in prayer no matter what we are doing.  Christ is present in Mass but he is also there when we are cleaning, running errands, sitting at our children’s ball practices… he’s always with us and always listening!   We should be in prayer throughout the day not just at Mass, at supper or at night before bed.   The more we immerse ourselves in prayer the easier it will be to approach someone, take their hands and say, “I would like to pray with you.”  If we start doing this in our own homes imagine how much easier it will be to approach a friend, an acquaintance or even a stranger.   Jesus encouraged us to pray.  He gave us the Lord’s Prayer and even modeled praying for us.   What a tremendous blessing it is to be able to pray with and for each other!

How do you teach your children to pray? 


How Marriage Will Get Us To Heaven – or, Why I Change the Toilet Paper Roll


“What was the best day of your life?”

It’s a common question that has become a bit of a cliche, used as an “icebreaker” for the first day of class or for “get-to-know-your-coworkers” meetings, and a question for which, for many years, I never had a satisfactory answer. Sure, there was that fun vacation, or the day I graduated from high school, but none of them seemed important enough to qualify for “BEST DAY EVER!” status.

But three years ago, I figured out the answer to that question. And like many women, my “best day ever” involves flowers, a white dress, a new ring, beautiful music, and a handsome guy standing at the foot of the altar watching me as I walked down the aisle. For many couples, their wedding day is a representation of their love and dedication to each other, a day in which they pledge to remain together for the rest of their days, no matter what troubles come their way. But for a Catholic couple, it is all these things and SO MUCH MORE.

Christ raised marriage from a natural bond to a supernatural bond, a sacrament. We know that a sacrament is “an outward sign instituted by Christ to give us grace.” So not only do we get all the natural benefits of marriage on our wedding day, but, through the sacrament, we also get the supernatural benefit of sanctifying grace: that beautiful gift from God which purifies our souls and makes them holy; sanctifying grace is what helps us obtain eternal life in heaven. And while my wedding day from a strictly natural perspective was the “best day ever” – I now get to spend the rest of my life with the person I love the most, and to have cute children with him – it was likely also supernaturally my “best day ever.” The Sacrament my husband and I received that day opened up the floodgates of God’s grace for us as a couple, and gave us a specific path to lead us to heaven, as long as we cooperate with those graces.

In marriage, while our first physical gift to each other is the gift of our bodies, our first spiritual gift to each other is the gift of sanctifying grace. Physically, we become sharers in God’s creative power through the marital act, in which a new soul has the potential to be created. Spiritually, we become sharers in God’s sanctifying power through our ability to give supernatural life to our spouse through sanctifying grace. This supernatural life – sanctifying grace – is our share in God’s life. Therefore, in every sacramental marriage, the husband can say that his wife is a means by which he returns to God. The wife can say that her husband is a means by which she returns to God.

When we stop to dwell on this for a moment, we realize how absolutely incredible and unique the marriage bond is. Not only in the physical sense, in that we can become co-creators with God in bringing new life into the world, but also in the spiritual sense, in that our actions have a direct correlation with our spouse’s eternal salvation. How awe-inspiring, and what a precious gift those of us with a vocation to marriage have been given! We aren’t in this alone; we can rely upon each other to achieve sanctity. This is the only relationship in which our actions are directly responsible for the other person to receive grace! God truly wishes us to be sanctified through our marriages.

So how can we best make use of this awesome benefit of the Sacrament of Matrimony? How can we direct the channel of grace towards our spouse? We have the grace available to us; we simply need to ask for it, not only through prayer, but also through our works. When we do something kind for our husband, he receives grace for it along with us. Each time our husband does something kind for us, we, along with him, are also receiving grace from that kind act.

So do something kind. Prepare your husband’s favorite dinner. Iron his pants for him. Get up a few minutes before him and make his coffee. Do a small chore that he especially dislikes. If he has a preference that something be done a certain way, do it out of love for him. In our house, that particular thing is the perpetually empty toilet paper roll (the TP is usually 6 inches away on the counter). It’s a very minute detail, but something that bothers my husband. So I try to make the effort to change the roll when it’s empty, even though it’s something that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. For others, it might be making the bed or having clean t-shirts in the drawer without having to dig through the dryer. Whatever it is, perform that selfless act out of love for your husband, for that selfless act will not only bring peace and joy to your marriage, but also be spiritually rewarding for both of you, as you “store up treasures for yourselves in heaven.” (Matt. 6:20) Little acts of grace, all the time – and marriage is full of these opportunities!

In a culture that is so immersed in self-gratification and self-sufficiency, even a small sacrifice for our spouse flies in the face of modern advice on marriage. We are told to make ourselves happy first, then to worry about others. But for us to reap the true spiritual benefits of marriage, we must be willing to sacrifice, and to sacrifice GENEROUSLY. A sacrifice done begrudgingly will have little merit; a sacrifice done willingly and generously will reap great rewards, for “God loveth a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7) We can and must be sanctified through our marriage. None of our earthly pursuits matter if we fail in our heavenly goal.

In the words of the Hungarian Bishop Tihamer Toth, in his early 20th century work entitled “The Christian Family”:

“It is a great joy if a wife can say to her husband: ‘I can thank you that I have such strong support in life, that I have such good children.’
It is a great joy if a husband can say to his wife: ‘I can thank you that I have such an understanding life companion, such a peaceful home.’
But the greatest joy of all will be if someday they can say to each other: ‘I can thank you that I have attained eternal life.’”

Let us be inspired to work towards that “greatest joy”!