Here is Episode # 2 of #EWTN’s “Everyday Blessings for Catholic Moms.” Again, the series was filmed in 2011 and I am sharing a new episode each Monday here on my blog. Enjoy!
I was recently visiting with Fr. Andrew Apostoli, C.F.R on EWTN’s Sunday Night Prime. In our show, “Bringing Lent Home, Part One” we talked about the family, Lent, Mother Teresa, and St. Therese. In case you didn’t catch it, you can see it here at your leisure.
Motherhood with all its unending joy is a vocation filled with a myriad of challenges. In addition to the arduous continual work in raising children today amidst the chaotic demeaning culture, there are other difficulties mothers face too. Immersed in a sometimes thankless role, mothers can feel isolated or invisible, they can doubt themselves or feel tempted to strive for other pursuits in an effort to feel affirmed or appreciated.
After all, when was the last time a mother was sincerely (and I mean, “sincerely”) thanked for her selfless and continual loving work and efforts in her family and home? Yes, it happens occasionally. However, our society does not value a mother’s work. Unfortunately, we mothers are valued by the size of a pay check and not the fact that we are actually raising little saints to heaven. We are, in fact, helping to form the consciences of little ones who are on loan to us and who have been entrusted to our care.
Because I am a mother of five (and three in heaven) and a grandmother, I value every aspect of the amazing role of motherhood—a vocation of love! During some of the time that I raised my children, I was a single mother. I have lived through thick and thin, and a lot of times it was very thin. So, I certainly know that mothers need encouragement and affirmation in their amazing yet arduous role. I feel very passionate about encouraging mothers everywhere and that’s why I do what I do. That’s why I write so many books and do a good deal of television shows to uplift and affirm the family—the vital cell of society, which, as we know is under attack by the evil one. I won’t dwell on “you-know-who” (I don’t like to give him credit because he thrives on that). But, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that we are engaged in spiritual battle so that we can be alert, continue praying, nourish our souls with solid Church teaching, and put one foot in front of the other to walk in faith every day in raising our families.
Recently, a faithful mother of many children came to me because she was feeling like a failure. I’ll call her Cindy. She said, “Do you have any tips you can share with me about how to get more done in a day? I am not as productive as I have been in the past in our schooling and it is making me feel like a failure. You are so productive so I thought I’d ask if you could give me some advice.”
I asked “Cindy” not to feel like a failure because she certainly wasn’t a failure. I told her that she should try to keep her chin up because God was smiling at her and that I hoped she could try not to be discouraged. I told her that “you-know-who” would like her and other mothers to feel that they are failures when, in fact, they are doing an amazing job in raising their children. I went on to give her a few tips that I thought might help her to feel more productive (since she asked for that), but certainly knew that many times a mother’s very important tasks are the ones that are quiet and may go unseen as she helps take care of her children’s zillion needs.
Give God the reins
“What comes to my mind right now,” I said, “is to get important things done first thing in the morning if you can. For instance, certain prayers you want to get going in the morning so that you don’t lament at the end of the day that you didn’t carve out that time for prayer. It’s challenging in a busy household. I do know that,” I reminded her. “But start your day with that Morning Offering prayer before you even get out of your bed, or right when you get out of your bed, on your knees by the side of your bed. Then you’ve given the reins to our Lord so to speak. You’ve given him the day ahead of you. Then you could be at peace knowing that He’s in control.”
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You my prayers, works,
joys and sufferings
of this day for all the intentions
of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and in particular
for the intentions of the Holy Father.
“And perhaps,” I continued, “the night before, you can possibly think about a project you’d like to get done in the house the next day. A certain corner of the house, a messy countertop you need to declutter, a pile of laundry that needs to get washed, whatever it is, try to tackle that first thing in the morning.”
Adding a bit more, I said, “Sometimes, and I know this might sound crazy, but sometimes I clean a bathroom before I even come downstairs to eat breakfast. I know we need to eat in the morning to nourish ourselves, but sometimes I see a mess and think that I should probably tackle it quickly so I don’t have to face it later in the day and also, in case I run out of time later in the day. Granted, you have little ones waiting for you, and maybe this won’t work for you, but I think that lots of tasks can be done quickly.”
I went on to tell “Cindy” how I’ve tried to make a game out of cleaning up to get the kids’ help, and more. “I have always tried to teach the kids that certain things needed to be done and then we can do the fun stuff.”
I didn’t want her to feel defeated. “It’s important not to beat yourself up if you can’t get things done,” I said. “You are busy enough taking care of the physical and emotional needs of your children. That in itself is a full-time job. Add to that, all of the cleaning and all of the schooling and your own hygiene in care of yourself, there’s just always so much to do.”
I wanted to also mention a tip on family prayer. “Then, of course, you want to carve out times for family prayer. That’s why I always say to do it at the dinner table. At least that’s one time for your family prayer because everyone’s all together, hopefully, and you have a captive audience.”
I told this beautiful Mom that I would recommend that she watch a You Tube video of my visit with Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR. in which we discuss my book Feeding Your Family’s Soul: Dinner Table Spirituality because she had watched it a couple of months earlier and told me that it helped her in her resolve to homeschool her family. There had been some temptations to throw in the towel, but she felt in her heart that Our Lord wanted her to keep it up despite the lack of encouragement around her. I thought that if she watched the show again it might give her a good “shot in the arm.”
All those “little” things
She thanked me and said she’d watch the video soon. Then she responded to my little “tips.” She said, “That helps me SO much! You always have the right words. In fact, I did that this morning. Before breakfast, I mopped and swept and cleaned bathrooms and put on laundry.” She continued giving me a blow by blow description.
“Then I schooled while nursing, but I just can’t help but feel like I should do more and better. But I think that might be a trap. A temptation. I have been forgetting my daily offering. I will try to do that. But, I have been working in the rosary. I am potty training my toddler, keeping my preschooler engaged, holding the nursing new one, dealing with high emotions of our teenager and helping school the other two. So, I guess even when it doesn’t feel like I’m doing a lot, I am. I just want them to be able to have a quality education and I doubt how effective I am.” Then she sighed.
Wow! This is what I’m talking about. Moms do SO much! And because Moms are often tired and overworked, they can easily lose sight of all that they actually do and also the fact that all that they do is SO important!
“Cindy” went on to tell me that she would re-watch the video. Her baby was sleeping in her arms and she had an opportunity to watch it, or at least in bits and pieces.
“Now that you reminded me,” she said, “it [watching the video] did recommit my determination for homeschooling. I remember now. It made me feel like I am making a good decision. Two of my closest friends that have been stay at home, homeschooling mothers are throwing in the towel and going to work. It just placed doubt in my mind….So I started to doubt my ability. I’m not teaching Latin or Spanish. But, I keep telling myself that if they need that, the Good Lord will provide. I also have to take lots of breaks because I wear out quickly since I’m not sleeping well at night.”
This sweet Mom is doing so much to please the Lord and raise her little saints to heaven. She, like so many others need our encouragement.
“Thank you for talking with me…Thank you for encouraging me, again!” She said.
I reiterated how much good that “Cindy” was doing for her family. “It’s quite amazing what you are doing…You don’t give yourself enough credit. And I did forget to mention too, that a lot of the work that we mothers do in the home can’t be measured because it’s all those little things which are so important to our children’s well-being.”
We don’t need esteem, honors, or even a paycheck
I wanted to encourage her more… “I would like to tell you to please keep doing what you’re doing. It’s very admirable even though you don’t realize it. You are doing exactly what our good Lord wants you to do. You are there for your family in so many ways…Please hang in there and please realize if you can, that you are doing an amazing job helping to form little consciences and raise up little saints to heaven!”
She told me, “You always make me feel so much better! You are a voice of truth dispelling the lies that come at me…It strengthens me to read your words and speak to you and know that you see value in my walk. That is your gift, encouraging mothers who I believe can get so easily discouraged because there isn’t a paycheck this side of heaven.”
I wholeheartedly agree with ”Cindy.” There isn’t a “paycheck” for our work this side of heaven. But, we don’t need that. We do need to strive to hold our heads up high and continue mothering our children, being a bright example to all in our midst, some who are struggling to find peace in their hearts. I’m so proud of this Mom. She is an amazing and faithful example to her family and all those that know her and see her example.
We can look to the Blessed Mother for guidance and intercession in our tiring yet profound vocation. We can also look to the inspiration of the saints.
Right after our conversation, this faithful Mom came across a quote from St. Alphonsus Liguori that really spoke to her heart:
A hidden and obscure life affords great security to those who sincerely desire to love God. Our Divine Master Himself deigned to teach us this by His own example, for He spent thirty years in the obscurity of Nazareth and the workshop of a humble carpenter. In imitation of their Divine Model, many saints withdrew into the desert and lived in remote caves to escape the esteem of men. The desire to put ourselves forward and merit the plaudits of men, to be regarded as very successful in our undertakings, is, according to St. Vincent de Paul, and evil that causes us to forget our God; it vitiates our holiest actions and more than anything else impedes our progress in the spiritual life. To be pleasing and acceptable in the sight of God, we must therefore banish from our hearts the desire to appear before men to win their approval and applause and especially the desire to rule over others.
Many times mothers are a bit isolated in the care of their families and other times they are out and about in the community with their brood. While we mothers might not be choosing to hide out from the community in our “domestic churches” to “escape the esteem of men,” we certainly can come to discover within our sometimes hidden role, that with the exception of Our Lord, we do not need the esteem of anyone in order to be committed in living out our beautiful vocation of motherhood.
St. Teresa of Calcutta, someone I still call Mother Teresa because I was blessed to know her personally and felt that she was a special mother to me, spoke about the hidden life in the family too. She once told me:
Fidelity to growing into a soul of prayer is the beginning of great holiness. If we remember ‘what we do to Jesus—that we do to each other,’ we would be real contemplatives in the heart of the world. Let us learn to pray and work as Jesus did for 30 years in Nazareth. The life and work; the prayer and sacrifice at Nazareth are so much like what our life should be. That peace, joy and unity that joined the Holy Family together in prayer and work is such a wonderful living example to us. They grew in holiness together. Let us learn from Mary to pray and ask Her to pray that your home will be another Nazareth.
This might sound funny, but after coming out of a convent bathroom one time, Mother Teresa told her Sisters, “Someone here really loves Our Lord. That bathroom is sparkling clean!” She was implying that the Sister who cleaned it did it for the love of God. It’s the same for all of us in life. We should do everything to the best of our ability to honor and please God. She also reminded us that we shouldn’t shy away from the humble work. Her sentiments and teachings give us much to think about.
We mothers come to discover that it is not about how much we can get done in a day that matters. A mother’s love and care can never be accurately measured. There will be plenty of times when we need to overlook the messy kitchen counters and overflowing laundry hampers because we are needed to console a child, to discipline another, to nurse the baby, to break up a squabble, to teach the others, and so much more.
I can’t help but think of some very wise words from Archbishop Fulton Sheen who said, “We always make the fatal mistake of thinking that it is what we do that matters when really what matters is what we let God do to us.” Let us not shy away from the humble work or the feelings of being “invisible” at times to bring about amazing transformations of hearts and souls because of God’s abiding grace, and through our selfless, yet powerful vocation of love.
Family, the Church, and the Real World, a book co-authored by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle took first place in the “Popular Presentation of the Catholic Faith” category at the Catholic Press Association’s awards presentation June 3 in St. Louis. It also won third place in the Family Life category. Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle contributed an essay to the book, published by Liguori Publications (2015).
Judges for the Best Popular Presentation category called the book, “An inspiring, practical, and insightful multi-author guide for family life, rooted in a God-love that binds, builds, and refreshes while moving outward to bolster Church and society.”
In the Family Life category, judged cited the book as “Easy and comfortable reading, nicely poetic, and scripture-based.”
“This would be a wonderful book for a group discussion of young married couples with children,” said the judges.
I recently experienced a beautiful encounter at my parish during a book signing after Mass. A woman came up to me and said she wanted to purchase my memoir The Kiss of Jesus which she wanted to gift to her sister who lived out West. She said she hoped she could surprise her sister with the book in thanksgiving for all her sister had done for her.
She went on to explain that her sister had gifted four of my books to her in recent years. As she was telling me, she pointed to my book The Domestic Church: Room By Room and recalled how that book helped her immensely.
“This book, The Domestic Church, brought me back into the Church! It also made me be sure to get all of my children baptized,” she recalled. “I also have an altar in my home because of this book.”
She was referring to my encouragement to parents to establish a prayer table or prayer corner in their homes so that they can raise their family in the faith more tangibly. They can hopefully be drawn to the Sacred rather than the secular with the holy reminders of the sacramentals and sacred images on and near their prayer table.
My heart was soaring, knowing that this woman had come back to the Church because her generous and caring sister had gifted my The Domestic Church book to her. God is so amazing! I thought.
The woman pointed to other titles on the table that her sister had sent to her and seemed to be so surprised that they were there in front of her.
The story gets even better.
The sweet woman at my book table went on to tell me that she was in disbelief that I was a parishioner at this particular parish.
“Don’t you usually go to this Mass?” she asked me. “I have seen you here before.”
She was trying to figure out whether or not I was just visiting this evening with my books or if I had been the woman she had seen all along.
I confirmed that I was indeed a parishioner. She was astounded. I told her that I try to keep a low profile at my parish.
“I watch you all of the time on EWTN and I read all of your blogs!” She told me. It took a moment for her to wrap her head around the fact that the author she was following for years was nearer to her than she could have imagined.
“You look shorter on TV!”
She had not realized that the woman she had seen at Mass at a distance was me.
We both smiled. Again, I felt deeply grateful to God that He had worked in this woman’s life through my books and television shows.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I observed a bit of the ‘big Church’ inside little domestic churches,” author, EWTN host and new grandmother Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle reminisced. “My Polish grandmother’s home was adorned with sacred Catholic items. From pictures of the saints and images of her favorite — Polish Pope John Paul II — to rosary beads and crucifixes, my grandmother’s faith was easily perceived in her home. My mother followed in her mother’s footsteps, and I grew up with [the Catholic faith] inconspicuously woven into my life.”
O’Boyle continued to build upon the foundation that her grandmother and mother gave her in her own family, adorning her home with Catholic art and sacramentals, which for her serve as “holy reminders that help uplift one’s spirit and heart to God” in the midst of busy family life. “Placing visible signs of our faith throughout our Catholic homes will transform walls, brick and mortar into a beautiful domestic church,” she explained.
Furthermore, O’Boyle has noticed that the church of the home is a powerful place to evangelize others. “The sacred items and sacramentals that we are accustomed to in our home can spark a conversation about the faith with a visitor or even a complete stranger. A deliveryman ended up staying a short while because we became engrossed in a conversation about God. It all unfolded after he observed religious art in the foyer of my home. After that, he left with a big smile on his face and said, ‘Wow! This was really meant to be … I have never had this route before!’”
You can read the entire article here: http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/fostering-holiness/#ixzz3qRWHZF00
Join me for #FamilyFaithChat on Wednesday, Sept. 9!
June is a time of bountiful “I do’s.” I was a June bride, therefore I will be celebrating my wedding anniversary in the coming days with my husband Dave. When asked to write a piece for Magnificat magazine under the category of “She Pondered These Things In Her Heart” and knowing it would be about marriage and family, I decided to convey something very real–not just a warm and fuzzy kind of love story.
I wanted to be honest in my article, brutally honest. Real love doesn’t translate to bliss or “warm and fuzzy.” Sure we enjoy those moments, but indeed marriage overall requires our work. And, love hurts sometimes. Mother Teresa often professed that real love requires sacrifice and often hurts. As well, we can’t rely on our feelings to forge ahead in our marriages. We choose to love–to give–to surrender our hearts.
I titled my piece, “Unexpected Discovery” because I think that is what discovery often is–unexpected. We can discover something we never realized about ourselves or about our spouse as we go through the daily grind–the nitty gritty details of life where we are supposed to be working out our salvation. We can also decide to work on getting rid of a vice as well as work towards cultivating a particular virtue once we open our hearts to discovery and God’s amazing grace.
In my piece for Magnificat which is in the June 2015 issue, I recalled a sort of funny, but what started out as a bit of a frustrating experience with my dear husband. The challenge that was presented in writing it (especially for me because I love to tell stories–long stories!) was to say it in a very limited number of words (and spaces!) because an exact amount of space is calculated and permitted in which to express the message so that it will fit on to the small Magnificat page. But, no more than that–not even one additional word or space.
Hopefully my message about sacrificial and sacramental love in marriage and family comes through. Hopefully I have expressed it in the little story I have shared. One woman who read the piece told me that she is going to put the page in a pretty photo frame and gift it to her daughter and soon-to-be son-in-law who are about to be married.
I think that is a beautiful and creative gift!
May God bless all marriages everywhere in which spouses bound in their sacramental covenant are actually actively helping one another to get to heaven through thick and thin, in good times and bad, and throughout every single detail they share every ordinary day!
May I ask? Have you discovered something very unexpected while navigating the vocation of marriage with your spouse? Will you seek to discover a hidden blessing waiting to be unearthed? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Family life is both messy and holy. I’m sure you’ll agree. I am happy to report that I have written a portion of a new book for families titled, Family, the Church, and the Real World due to be released on August 1st in time for the World Meeting of Families.
My contribution is about the “Domestic Church.”
A description from Liguori:
If you embrace only the holiness, or if you just get lost in the messiness, then you miss the fullness of the experience that is living as a family – both in the domestic church and the Institutional Church. Here you’ll find inspiration from Scripture and modern advice that does more than just tell you how family life is “supposed” to be. This book gives you real, practical wisdom on how to navigate the holy messiness of family life.
Insights have been gathered from experts in every area of family life, including: Dr. Sean Reynolds, Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak, Lisa Hendey, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Dr. Don Paglia, Christopher West, Fr. Andrew Wisdom, Dr. Tom Neal, and Greg and Jennifer Willits. You’ll discover that Catholic Church teaching on marriage and family is rooted in our ultimate calling – to love with all we can muster, even through those messy moments.
Here’s a link to the book’s description and other details at the publisher.
You can pre-order the book (which sells for $15.00) at my website here.
May God bless families everywhere!
We have just completed our Lenten journey and are now celebrating our Easter JOY!
It might seem odd that I am already speaking about our next Lenten journey. But, I want you to know that I’ve got you covered! I have a brand new family Lenten book (fourth in my series) for you! Here is the book cover image.
I hope you like it. It will be available in early October! As always, for a ridiculously low price of under $3.00.
Relish in your Easter JOY!
Lots of buzz lately. Have you seen yesterday’s first show of my brand new Catholic Mom’s Cafe series? It’s about kids, modesty, and fashion. When EWTN re-airs the show I’ll be sure to let you know. Take a look at this blog post about tonight’s new show which is about kids and the culture (airing at 6:30 PM ET) and the cool contests you can enter to win just by watching the show.
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Take good care!