Friday, September 14, 2012

Apple Pie and True Crosses

I think it is important to remember while roaming "the blogosphere" that we tend to post the beautiful moments and not the ugly ones. Charming pictures of cherubic children and well-tended homes abound. Have you ever thought about how ugly and a little bit hellish your face looks when you utterly lose it and shout at your children? I have. I'm glad there are no hidden cameras to take pictures of that.

I recently had a priest talk to me about crosses. I won't even begin to explain things as well as he did, but he was explaining that a cross that God gives us (and all crosses are permissively allowed by God) is the greatest gift He could give us

Okay, that's deep.

Think in your own life about a cross you carry, that causes you great pain, and then think about how God is allowing that exact cross specifically for you because it is the greatest gift He can give you.

I can't explain this all and I admit fully to still wrapping my brain around it. This idea has to do with the fact that crosses are from (allowed by) God. Where else could they come from? If God is omnipotent, then he has the power to remove any cross from our lives, and, if he doesn't, there's a reason. If God is all-loving, then He must deem that the cross is good for us. Good for us doesn't mean that it feels good, but that it is salutary for our soul.

How many crosses do people have that are given out to inspire people to reform their souls, practice virtue, in a way they never would have done otherwise, thereby saving their very souls?

So, we come to one "cross" as common and all-American as apple pie: the blessing of having children, and maybe lots of them, and maybe plenty of young ones. Yesterday I did not blog because all I would have had to talk about was A No Good Rotten Day in which I seriously failed as a mother, and then (after apologizing to the children) felt so guilt-ridden and hopeless in my defects that I curled up in a ball and my husband ended up taking the three children out to dinner, thus adding to my self-imposed labels Failure as a Wife.

Patience: the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like

Children challenge patience: seriously and deeply and often unceasingly. How is it that a mere three beautiful, healthy, and basically very well-behaved children can challenge my patience (which has about 30 years more practice than does theirs) such that I am reduced to ugly human behavior? It's shameful of me! And yet mothers and fathers across our country and our world succumb to having our own adult-sized temper tantrums toward our children every single day. No wonder that saints refer in their writings to themselves as lowly things like "worms." (I read today Peter Kreeft writing that there are two kinds of people: sinners who think they are saints and saints who know they are sinners.)

That children unceasingly prick my very imperfect virtue of patience is a cross. But where would I be without this most perfect gift from God? I'd definitely be even more impatient and self-centered than I am today: I shudder to think of how shallow I likely would be. Maybe I'd lose my soul over a total lack of patience--such a thing is possible! Think what sins ensue from failures to practice patience!

Today was a better day than yesterday and I spent time thinking about how our smallness requires fighting heroically to arise even over pathetically common crosses.

This morning, after getting to "sleep in" till 6:00 and after schooling the children, we set about baking apple pies: two to donate to the bake sale at the parish carnival tomorrow (our biggest annual fundraiser), one for our family to eat now, and one to freeze for my stepdad's upcoming visit!

Cherubic faces frozen in pictures don't really capture how much patience is required to cook with children helpers, do they?

Baking the apple pies had me meditating throughout the day on the unremarkable nature (unremarkable like apple pies) of many of our crosses. Just because they're common doesn't make them insignificant. God places us in certain situations in our vocations, and our path to sainthood (which we are all called to achieve) is by fulfilling those duties pursuant to our vocations while practicing Biblical virtues. Sainthood through housewifery!

So, I remarked to myself on the commonness of it all and how I was grateful to be in my second trimester and to have enough energy to stand and bake pies. But by the end of baking, pregnancy sciatica was stabbing at me and I couldn't stand anymore, and was then realizing that it was only 11:30 and I had a whole lot of day left before me!

I fed the littles lunch, put them into Quiet Time, washed all the dishes, and was able to lay down for 30 minutes while the baby crawled all over me--and I fell asleep anyway! So very tired.

It was then time to load up the kids for our first day of art class, resuming for the fall at our parish. Going out was about the last thing I wanted to do, but off we went with two children who couldn't have been more eager.

Unfortunately for my sweet children, I had confused the time and showed up exactly as art class was ending. They were very brave and did not cry, but proceeded to have fun during free play in the gymnasium. Mamas who are 19 weeks pregnant do not get to sit down when they have a toddler running around among big kids, swinging hockey sticks, and flying basketballs.

Three o'clock and time to go home . . . . I got to sit in a chair for about one hour (sweet relief!) before preparing dinner. Chris was busy planning a talk he would be giving that night, so I was managing dinner--"sitting means on your bottom! focus on your food! stop bothering your sister! do not rub that in your hair! we don't sing at the table and we certainly don't make those noises!"--by myself. The kids wanted to know why we would be having dessert tonight, a Friday, which they know is generally penitential. As we ate, I got out the saint book and read to them about St. Helen to explain the finding of the true cross, which we are celebrating today on the feast of the Triumph of the Cross.

All I had said was that St. Helen had found the true cross--and hadn't even mentioned that it is now divided into many splinters, which travel with priests across the globe being venerated--when John said with as much breathy wistfulness as a five-year-old boy can muster: "I surely wish I could see the true cross someday."

That was one of those exhausted mama moments when I felt a whole rush of words spoken to me all at once. See, we actually have a relic of the true cross at our parish today, available for veneration all day, but no longer tomorrow. And I had known that and intended fully to take the children to venerate it after art and gym class.

But I had forgotten.

And I had remembered that I had forgotten as we drove home, but I thought, "Oh well, that is really too bad, well, we missed that one. Going home now."

So, in that moment, I decided to accept the mama cross (little in the worldwide scheme of things, but big when one is feeling bone tired with sciatica knife stabs) that God was placing right in my face: "Well, John, guess what? There is a splinter of the true cross at our parish right now and I'm going to take you there to see it."


It was 5:30, the children were droopy-eyed from no nap, the baby had had all of one 45-minute nap, and Chris couldn't help me because he was busy writing his talk. So, I loaded up the kids and we drove through rush hour traffic back to church where we had the wonderful privilege of being able to venerate the true cross. John told me that it was his first time and I told him that it was mine too.

Maybe we should venerate our true crosses, so to speak, more often. For example, maybe I should relish gratefully the feeling of fatigue that comes with a day like today because it takes me out of a state of sinful, pampered laziness.

John was particularly glad to have seen a piece of the true cross. We drove home, me keeping them from falling asleep with promises of ice cream to celebrate this feast day.

And now, they sleep. I face a disastrously messy kitchen to clean and three loads of laundry remaining.

I contemplate apple pies and true crosses.


  1. Katherine, there is so much about this post that I like because I can truly relate to it! This week has been hectic and tiring made even more so because my husband has a bad cold.

    Thank you for sharing your true thoughts and those pies sure look delicious.

  2. Beautiful, Katherine. Thank you for this!

  3. Katherine, I have no words. I am so touched by this post. I've read it twice, about to read it again and will probably print it out and meditate on it for the next week. I so needed to hear this and you so eloquently captured the heart of what all mamas need to hear today and everyday. Thank you.

  4. I heard recently that there is actually a piece of the true Cross orbiting out planet. Don't know all the details and am too lazy right now to look it up. But I thought John would get a kick out of that. He can look up at the sky and think about the True Cross being out there, somewhere.

  5. A very good reflection. Thanks for sharing.

  6. This is so good Katherine, and so needed for today when I've already encountered so many little crosses!! Thanks for writing this!!!

  7. Katherine, I had some extra time today, so I've been reading your blog posts and this one popped up under "Popular Posts." I know it's a few years old, but oh, how fitting it was for me to read today! There's just so much about this post I love...I don't even know where to begin!