It’s Lent, a time of mortification, of setting aside worldly amusements to contemplate Him Who died for us.
A mother doesn’t have much time to contemplate…..and she does a lot of mortification each day. She may yearn for some time alone, but often it is not to be, unless we get up before all else and spend some time in prayer. This can be very difficult when we have been up half the night wiping noses and nursing babies.
But there is hope, as Fr. Rolheiser points out in the following paragraph:
“Carlo Carretto, one of the leading spiritual writers of the past half-century, lived for more than a dozen years as a hermit in the Sahara desert. Alone, with only the Blessed Sacrament for company, milking a goat for his food, and translating the Bible into the local Bedouin language, he prayed for long hours by himself. Returning to Italy one day to visit his mother, he came to a startling realization: His mother, who for more than thirty years of her life had been so busy raising a family that she scarcely ever had a private minute for herself, was more contemplative than he was.”
What a discovery!
This is not to say that the hermit’s life was not a holy one. But it IS a reminder that we who are in the world, striving to do our daily duties every day, have a high calling of holiness and, as this hermit found out, it is not out of reach.
I remember, many years ago, I had the opportunity to go to a retreat. I was a busy mom and I knew I needed refreshment for my soul. It was a 5-day Ignatian retreat – Monday through Friday. I made all the necessary arrangements and, with some trepidation, but also with joy, I began the retreat. Wednesday rolled around, and we were still contemplating death and judgement, Ignatian-style. I had just made my general confession when I got called into the priest’s office. I had received a phone call that my little one-year-old was very sick. I rushed home, knowing my retreat had come to an unexpected and abrupt end.
My will and what I would have thought was more valuable to God, would have been to finish the retreat. His will was that I return to my family.
Yes, it is difficult to get a few moments where we can actually “set ourselves apart”.
Ultimately, though, why DO we take these times to be alone with God? Isn’t it so that we can learn to do His Will…..So that it is not we who live, but Jesus within us?
How many opportunities do we, as wives and mothers, have each day to do God’s will, not our own?? Many….many. We do not need a retreat to figure this out.
A wife and a mother’s journey is laying down her life for those she loves. And we prove it each time we tend to the needs around us. We learn that most important life-lesson that the hermit in the desert is learning…..to lay down our lives for Christ.
Yes, the hermit sets himself apart. And really, the life of a housewife and mother is also a life set apart. We are set apart from the powerful and from the elite. We are set apart from the mainstream….you can feel it when you walk in the grocery store, with 4 or more little people in tow. You can see it in the looks that you are given…..no, we are not mainstream.
Like Christ, we bend our hearts down to the lowly, the little ones. We wipe away tears, change diapers, put on band-aids, feed the hungry and many other menial, yet meaningful services. We attune ourselves to the powerless, not the powerful.
So, take heart, dear Ladies, as this season of Lent progresses and you find yourselves stumbling to accomplish the fasts and penances you set out to accomplish.
Remember, our life is already one of very special sacrifice. Let’s work on making the sacrifice more beautiful for Our Lord…..less complaining, more cheerfulness, more offering our hearts to Our Lord during the day.
Let us say the name of Jesus often and make a special effort to talk to our Guardian Angel during the day. These efforts will help us progress, this Lent, on the path of holiness.
From Divine Intimacy:
The spirit of mortification embraces, in the first place, all the occasions for physical or moral suffering permitted by Divine Providence. The sufferings attendant on illness or fatigue; the efforts required by the performance of our duties or by a life of intense labor; the privations imposed by the state of poverty – all are excellent physical penances. If we sincerely desire to be guided by Divine Providence in everything, we will not try to avoid them, or even to lighten them, but will accept wholeheartedly whatever God offers us. It would be absurd to refuse a single one of the providential opportunities for suffering and to look for voluntary mortifications of our own choice.
It is exactly the same in the moral order. Do we not sometimes try to avoid a person whom we do not like, but with whom the Lord has brought us into contact? Do we look for every means of avoiding a humiliation or an act of obedience which is painful to nature? If we do, we are running away from the best opportunities for sacrificing ourselves and for mortifying our self-love; even if we substitute other mortifications, they will not be as effective as those which God Himself has prepared for us. In the mortifications offered to us by Divine Providence, there is nothing of our own will or liking; they strike us just where we need it most, and where, by voluntary mortification, we could never reach.
In order to arrive at sanctity, a certain specified amount of voluntary penance is not required of all; this varies according to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the advice of superiors, and each one’s physical strength. All, however, must have that truly deep spirit of mortification which can embrace with generosity every opportunity for renunciation prepared or permitted by God.
Here I am, Lord; I place myself in Your Hands. Mortify me, purify me as You wish, for whenever You afflict, it is to heal, and wherever You mortify, life increases.
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