Tonight, after the Christmas tree went up and the children went down I slipped into my PJ’s and was looking forward to some quiet and a piece of cherry cheesecake. I walked down the hall, headed for the kitchen and feeling the relief that comes after a long day when I noticed a silhouette… somebody was out of bed. I sighed. It was Caroline, and she gently whispered to me, “Mama, we forgot my name’s day.” My eyes were not able to make out the details of her face. I hate looking at disappointment on my children’s faces. I was glad it was dark.
These days I feel as if I am barely scraping by, doing just enough to keep things from sinking…not much more. I have not been in the festive mood, and when I admitted this to my husband this evening he agreed and said that he had noticed. After a long week away from home after Thanksgiving, I feel as if I cannot catch up. In truth, I have done very little. I just feel tired. But, more than that I feel as if I cannot find my way. I am out of sync with myself.
I used to get up every morning and have a quiet time in prayer and scripture reading. I have not done that in months. The reason… I cannot seem to get anything on a schedule. The time that I used to reserve in the early morning is now taken by a nursing baby. And this is good, but I cannot help feeling like I am capable of more. Can’t I nurse and pray? I know the advice, just pray while you nurse…offer to God what you can…this is a wonderful season. All of that is true, very true. However, rhythm is something I crave. Prayer is rhythm, the Church calendar is rhythm, it is a spiritual cadence, and when I am out of sync with the Church, I feel empty.
I tried to fast, and within the first week of the Nativity fast I saw a real decrease in my milk production. This stresses me. Not because I feel like a failure, but because I feel the loss when I cannot/will not fully participate. After participating in the Church, what the world has to offer during the Christmas season feels empty. I discussed this with the girls not long ago. When Tradition was abandoned, a very shallow way of feasting replaced the life giving revelation of the Church. I enjoy the cultural aspects of Christmas, but not in the absence of the Church.
So many things are contributing to this feeling of disconnectedness with the Church. And I know what will restore me…a gentle return to the sacraments as life, not duty.
More than a self willed return to what I think is normal, I am sensing that in this time of finding my way I need to be gentle. I sense that I have things to learn about motherhood and what my job really is.
A part of me is glad that we did not celebrate Caroline’s name’s day by going out to eat or treating it like a birthday party in disguise. Remembering this way has made things very clear. Forgetfulness creates emptiness. When busyness and worldliness lead to forgetfulness, or worse, disregard…we grapple for things to fill the spiritual void. Sentimentalism is something I turn to when I feel spiritually empty. But, sentimentality has a dark side…behind the exterior of cherished memories and strong attachments, comes a fear of death characterized by anger and depression. Sentimentality will never replace a heartfelt relationship with Christ.
One thing my mom advised me when I opened up to her about feeling disconnected is that the Church offers guidelines, but ultimately the the Church calendar must be followed in the heart. The feasts and fasts are opportunities, not duties. She also wisely showed me that I am not a spiritual giant, and that means that I am not going to experience every feast day or Liturgy or fasting season with the warmness of heart that I desire. Sometimes things pass without me feeling anything, and that is ok. She encouraged me to pray our family prayers diligently, and she challenged me to read the scriptures faithfully with her this next year.
I got off the phone and thanked God for a Godly mother. In her uncanny way my mom always challenges me to live a smaller life, especially spiritually. She helps me come down out of the clouds and be a dutiful wife and mother. No pretense. I love her for that.
Caroline celebrates her name day on December 9, she is Hannah… what a beautiful story of grace. Hannah was one of two wives of Elkanah, and she was barren. Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, had bore him many children. Peninnah reproached Hannah, for bareness was shameful in those days. In her sorrow Hannah cried out to the Lord, and He gave her a son, Samuel. Samuel was the fruit of prayer and sorrow. Hannah kept praying, even in failure and sorrow, she kept offering her heart. She did this for many, many years before she was blessed with fruitfulness.
Happy late name’s day Caroline, my sweet Hannah. I am sorry I forgot. I am sorry we forgot. Thank you for waking up to remind me. Thank you for remembering.
Saint Hannah pray for us. Pray for Caroline.
May we struggle to pray as Hannah did, she prayed as though she was drunk. In fact she was very sober, sober and attentive. And God heard her prayer and gave her a son.
And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.”