Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christ’s Nursery

I sat at the giant wooden table that my dad had made to fit in my parents’ spacious kitchen area.  My mom had decorated the house beautifully for Christmas—large ornaments, holly, and hurricane candles.adorned the oversized table.  The babies were in bed, and I was grateful for some quiet time with my mom and dad.

I opened up the laptop and asked them if they would tell me again what it was like visiting the place of Jesus’s birth.  They had made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land last year, and they both put their reading down immediately, eager to recall the special trip. 

In Bethlehem, they explained, people used to live in caves with their animals until they had saved enough money to build a house on top of the cave.  A second story, an upper room, would also be put in for visiting guests and relatives. 

Dad, having returned from his bedroom with a big stack of pictures, looked through them carefully, searching for pictures of the Church of the Nativity, which had been built right on top of the cave where Jesus had been born.

Mom continued.  “At the time of the census, the city was packed, and the inhabitants of Bethlehem either had their own families staying in their upper rooms or they had rented them out.  So when Joseph went door to door, there honestly was no room—no one was being mean.  Finally, someone let Joseph and Mary stay in their cave below with the animals for the night.” 

Mom adjusted her glasses.  “I always thought the cave would have been ten feet from the door, but it must’ve been one hundred feet back from the opening of the cave.”  Being so deep the cave would have provided the Holy Family with protection at least from the elements.  “Mary was given privacy in the back where maybe she could’ve started a fire.”  Mom stopped and she and I both looked at each other and shook our heads.  “Could you imagine?” she asked.  No, no indeed—Our Lady had been such a trooper.

Dad had pulled out a picture of the place where Jesus was born.  “The spot where Christ was born is marked here by a big brass star, in what looks like a fireplace.  About six feet away is where the manger was.”  I looked at the photograph and was floored and so grateful that the faithful over the centuries had been so careful about honoring and remembering the exact place where those events had occurred.

It was all so ordinary and yet it was the stage for one of the most outrageous acts of divine Love in all of history.  What a beautiful God we have, being born in a cave, and what a beautiful identity we have in Him.  Come, baby Jesus, come and bring peace and true humility to our too-proud hearts that we might be freed to love only You this Christmastime.   


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mystic Mom

Why?  Why hadn’t God called me to be a Mystic Monk?  I could get used to the habit, the tonsure, even, if that meant that I could live a day of work and prayer that I knew was pleasing to Him, as designed by legends in our tradition like St. Benedict and St. Teresa of Avila.  I wouldn’t waste any time during the day wondering what I should do next because it would be all set out for me.  I could do my work of the day with great precision and peace because there’d be time for me to take my time to do my very best out of love for Him.  And at the end of the day, I could go to sleep with a happy heart, content knowing that I had lived a day good and pleasing to God.  I could say with confidence, “Take me now, God!” simply because my heart was prepared to meet Him and not because I couldn’t stand being at home a second longer.  In His infinite patience and generosity, and also to protect His beloved sons in Wyoming from me disguised as Brother Margaret Mary, He kindly led me to Canadian Holly Pierlot’s book A Mother’s Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul to show me that this is all possible within my own vocation, right now, that I can indeed be a holy, peaceful mom in 2011.

Holly Pierlot, a homeschooling mom of five, also had been fed up with her own chaotic existence, overwhelmed with her household and schooling responsibilities that never seemed finished and left her without time for herself, marriage or prayer.  Out of desperation, she was gradually led by the Holy Spirit to design her own rule, like our beloved religious sisters and brothers follow, to finally bring order to her home and heart.  Designed to meet her needs and responsibilities for prayer and those as a daughter of God, wife, mother, and provider, her rule lays out her various tasks throughout the day so that at every moment she knows exactly what she ought to be doing.  Her rule also takes into consideration weekly, monthly, and seasonal duties. 

After having successfully implemented her rule, Holly Pierlot’s home became so ordered, life ran so smoothly, that she actually began to feel bored!  When that moment came, she began to offer up every little thing she did out of love for Jesus.  She’d do her chores as if Jesus were coming to her home, and hugged her children as if they were Jesus Himself.  And when this attitude of St. Therese’s Little Way became imbedded in her, she began to experience active contemplation.  While out in her garden, doing the laundry, or washing the dishes, she would suddenly be overwhelmed by His presence.  But she also found her prayer time beautifully fruitful as well.  “I’d be in front of the Blessed Sacrament,” she writes, “and feel what I called a ‘tractor beam’ pulling my heart in the middle of my chest toward Jesus!”  Holly Pierlot had so ordered her home and heart that she finally was able to experience God concretely in her daily life at home.
“Since God lives in the heart,” she writes, “I was not to seek some Being way up in the sky past the clouds; my journey to God was to become ordered enough inside to enable me to experience him within.  When our emotions are running loose, and our minds are confused, and our wills are weak and indecisive, and our imagination is working overtime, there’s so much internal noise that we can’t hear the still voice of God present in the core of our being, our hearts.  The disorder in my person made me deaf to him.”
Well, I have my work cut out for me.  Instead of booking a flight to Wyoming, I’ll instead use this time of Christmas vacation to map out a rule for myself in the New Year, working out the areas of disorder in my life so that one day I, too, might experience in my daily work that same level of contemplation of God as Holly Pierlot.  I suppose God doesn’t want me to be a Mystic Monk, but perhaps He is calling me to be a mystic mom.