While driving across Texas on Independence Day, I was listening to one of my favorite shows on Sirius XM, “The Catholic Guy” with Lino Rulli. Now, because it was the 4th of July, it was, of course, not a live show but the best of his shows during the week. His show has been on the road for about 9 months now and he was in Austin with Jennifer Fulwiler, who is a mom of 6 kids and an atheist turned Catholic and has an awesome book all about her conversion. She also has a blog (The Conversion Diary) where she posts regularly about all kinds of things both Catholic and just life in general.
During one segment, they were discussing something that really struck me. Lino and Jennifer were talking about how they don’t feel like they are “Catholic enough.” What does this even mean? Lino gave an example of how some families have a “Family Rosary” time, but he never grew up with that and Jennifer said something to the effect of “My children would be using their rosaries as weapons and having battles if we tried that!” I felt myself totally agreeing with them and sympathizing with their thoughts. I don’t say the rosary daily. I don’t stand over my kids to say their nightly prayers. Heck, I haven’t even been able to get my husband into a church to be baptized yet.
They went on to say as how this is all probably a part of Catholic guilt and this is where I had one of my driving ”A-ha!” moments. You know the kind. We all have those type of moments when we are driving, meditating, praying, running, exercising or even, in my case, showering, where all of a sudden you see something clearly out of nowhere and or have a brilliant idea about it. Well, I hope we all have those kinds of moments, anyway. However, back to my point, this isn’t about Catholic guilt, it’s all about the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality that we have all bought into.
It doesn’t matter if it’s being “Catholic enough” or if it’s beating up yourself because you aren’t skinny enough, not a super-mom, (you know the kind I’m talking about), not smart enough or whatever else we can find to beat ourselves up. So many of us have decided that other people do things better than we do and we just aren’t good enough or maybe just not as good as them.
My sister is a new mom to a beautiful 5-month-old girl and was just recently struggling with this very thing. New moms all over feel so much pressure to be perfect, to get their pre-baby shape back, to have the baby sleeping through the night by 6 weeks (2 months, 4 months…whatever), to cry it out, to co-sleep, to feed on demand, don’t breastfeed, do breastfeed exclusively, etc.
It’s time to stop this madness! Why do we put ourselves through this kind of torture on a daily basis? Why are we not able to just be confident with whom we are as a person and recognize that we all have our own path to walk? God loves us whether we pray a family rosary daily/ go to confession weekly/ go to daily mass or not. Like a loving parent, God would like us to love Him in the same way He loves us and to turn to Him daily in our need. However, HE recognizes that we will get there in time.
He calls us to make that time for Him daily, whether that is through a quick prayer of thanksgiving for a beautiful sunrise/set or going to daily mass. It is through spending time with Him that we create our own relationship with Him.
Every relationship is different, as well, just as each of us is different. While Lino goes to mass daily and confession weekly, he doesn’t have a great devotion to the rosary. That is his relationship with God. My relationship at this time is different that it was even five years ago. I now make sure that, even while on vacation, we attend Sunday mass. Five years ago, I was lucky to go once a month because I had a hard time handling both of my daughters on my own during mass. But He had plans for me because now I am considering getting my Masters Degree in Catechesis from Franciscan University of Steubenville!
My point is, love who you are, seek God in your own way and don’t judge yourself harshly. My favorite poem says it better than I ever could. I’ve italicized my favorite parts.
by Max Ehrmann
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
Even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy you achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
Be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all it’s sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.