Catholic Mass is a little different than other church services. The structure of services I attended as a kid into my adulthood was the same wherever I went. We had 20 minutes of song- be it traditional hymns or updated songs that boarder on rock. Either way, it was the musical block and then an hour of a sermon. In Catholic Mass, it follows the same structure week in and week out. Prayers, blessings, readings. Stand up. Sit down. Stand up. Sit Down. Kneel. Stand up. Kneel again. Sit. Stand. I find a great deal of comfort in the ritual of it. It makes me feel closer to God. It allows me to slow down and reflect on the abundant blessings of my life. Gives me a safe place to plead for help with the struggles that feel bigger than me.
Within our Mass, we have a Homily. This is the period within the service that a Deacon or Priest speaks to the congregation. It is tied to the readings of that week. Just like anything else, I have my favorite speakers. Father Jim warms my heart. I love his cadence. How his brain works. The way he interacts with the children in the pews before him. How he always steps off the alter to speak to us- as if showing his humility and connection to the congregation. His heart for us.
But I digress- as I tend to do. Yesterdays homily was centered around Corinthians. Corinthians (1 Cor 12:31-13:13) to be exact. I have heard the scripture before. I think even those that don’t believe are familiar with the lines about what love is-
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Though I love the sentiment behind the portion many have heard at various times of their lives- it was another verse that struck a chord.
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b]but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is what makes me effective in the world. Love is what infuses power and compassion into my words. Love is what touches those around me. If I do not have love, I gain nothing. I am nothing.
The homily expanded upon this. The Priest began to discuss the passage in the context that I have always heard it- romantic love. He commented that he has heard this particular reading recited in many wedding ceremonies. He pondered- did these couples recognize the gravity of what they were committing to? Did they understand that it is a difficult undertaking? I don’t think most of us do. It is a difficult task to put down fear, jealousy, keeping score. It is challenging to be selfless.
But he took it a step further. He discussed loving your neighbor. Loving yourself. Romantic love- pink hearts and Valentines Day- is not the only important love. It is just the easiest to celebrate, I think. So I got to thinking about being a parent. Loving my son. Disciplining my son. Guiding my son.
Without love, I am nothing. Without love, I gain nothing.
This gig is hard. Being a single parent may be one of the most difficult endeavors I have ever embarked upon. I worry a lot. I struggle to find answers-to have confidence in my choices. At any given moment, I am two logic leaps away from conviction that I am systematically ruining my son for life. I am super well adjusted.
I could write an entire post about the self doubt. The nights spent curled up in his rocking chair wondering where I have failed him because he isn’t sleeping. The afternoons that I stride out of the bathroom confidently while he is wailing, just to turn the corner and cry. Because being the disciplinarian is painful. Doing the research, making the decisions, can be confusing- to say the least. And the world has opinions. So many opinions. Everyone can do it better than me- just ask them.
The homily took me out of that a little bit- I must stress a little bit. Because I am human and I take this job of raising this tiny person incredibly seriously- therefore, I will slip into self doubt and damnation again. Probably far more often than I should.
I love this turd. His smile brightens my soul. The responsibility of raising him to be a good human is not a light task- but one I wouldn’t trade for an easier position. Because in everything I do- every worry that crosses my mind- is shrouded in love. My love for those round cheeks and infectious giggle give me a glimpse into the love God has for me. It pulls the curtain back a little. I am reminded that I have self doubt. I cry out in the isolation of darkness because I am lost. I am fatigued. I feel like I have exceeded my limits, my capacity to do the best for him. But so does Moose. He struggles with new tasks, exercises that challenge him- he asks for help. He says he can’t do it. I don’t swoop in. I don’t rescue him from the struggle. I remind him that he can. I praise his tenacity for continuing to try.
I forget to hear that for myself. The whispers of God’s love- his encouragement. That I have never parented before. And even if I had- if Moose was my second, third, or twelfth child- I have never parented him before. I can do this. And my tenacity for continuing to be the best mom I can be- I should praise myself for that. God didn’t give me this precious position in his life for nothing. He didn’t set me up to fail.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
I foster an abundance of love. Love for my son. Love for my family; my friends. Love for those in need. Love for those more fortunate than me. Love for the world. Therefore, I have the greatest blessing of all.
Yesterday, God embraced me through the beauty of Mass. The recitation of words that reminded me that I am not perfect. I may fail from time to time. But I have love. My son feels that love. I can see it in his face when he hugs me. When he kisses my cheek. When he excitedly tells anyone near “this is mommy!”. The love is even there in the tantrums- the safety he feels in expressing his tough emotions. That’s harder to see most days. But it’s there. My decisions are made based on my love- his best interests. My sacrifices and unselfishness. And as long as I keep doing that, I am doing pretty good at this. And so are you, Mama.