When your Baby makes you say Grace in Nando’s.

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In my last post I discussed feelings of shame. And here I am writing another post recounting another event in which I suddenly found myself experiencing shame. It seems I am possibly the most self concious, self obsessed person I know!

We have been going out quite a bit over the last few weeks since my husband became well again and one of these outings was to the famous chicken restaurant Nando’s. All 5 of us were there. Now you may be starting to wonder what the shame aspect is to this story:

Mackenzie, 6, gets messy in a giant kids food fight as part of the Persil "Cook with the Kids Promise", which is encouraging parents to get cooking with their kids. See SWNS story SWCOOK: Almost 90 per cent of parents avoid cooking with their children because they are worried about making a mess, according to a new study. Researchers found that 88 per cent of parents said cooking with their youngsters required too much clearing up.  Just under half of those interviewed said that they were simply too busy to clear up the mess made by their children in the kitchen. The study of 2,000 people, conducted by Persil Washing Up Liquid, discovered that only 12 per cent of adults weren't worried about making a mess when cooking with their children.

Were my children finding new and inventive ways of wearing their lunch? Noooo.

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Was it that after walking the entire length of the restaurant I realised that I had my skirt tucked into my knickers? Noooo.

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Did we forget to bring our wallets and end up having to escape by passing the children to each other out of the bathroom window? No.

So what was it? It must have been absolutely horrific right? Wrong.

As our food came to the table and everyone started eating, the baby sat very still and put her hands together to pray and said “Weddy?!” It was a moment of mixed emotions:

My first responses went kinda like this:

  1. Oh my gosh i’m going to have to sing in Public.
  2. Just tell the kids that we don’t have to say grace today.
  3. OMGosh! You terrible mother! You terrible Catholic!
  4. Your 1 year old is giving a better witness than you are.
  5. I don’t want the kids to think I’m ashamed to pray in public.
  6. Will my husband join in?
  7. Will people stare at us?
  8. What if people think I’m a religious fanatical parent?
  9. Who cares what a bunch of strangers think!
  10. THIS is your JOB!
  11. Get a grip.
  12. I have serious pride/humility issues.
  13. I’m so ashamed of myself for feeling ashamed.
  14. God is watching you RIGHT NOW.
  15. What you gonna do?

The two older kids had already started making the sign of the cross – like it was the most normal natural thing in the world to do. I purposely didn’t make eye contact with my husband in case he told me “This is a bad idea”. I could sense he was probably going through the same set of ridiculous emotions as I was.

And guess what? We said Grace. It was fine! Some people looked at us. Most didn’t. The kids carried on as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

To be honest it kinda reminded me of the early days of wearing my mantilla. I found that absolutely terrifying. And people DID stare at me then. Older ladies did come up to me and abruptly question me as to why I was wearing something “so old fashioned”. But you know what – I got used to it, and so did they. And you know what else – it’s really not up to them to tell me how they think I should be worshipping God. Funny how doing something so simple as wearing a mantilla can bring up such emotions in people isn’t it?

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Now the challenge is to let the general public see my relationship with God. This is something that on the one hand I want to shout about from the rooftops because I am having the most incredible love affair with the creator of the universe! But on the other hand it is the most personal intimate relationship that cuts through to the very depths of who I am, and to have someone criticise that, or to laugh at me for it would be utterly crushing. I’m such a baby!

And here’s the truth: In that restaurant some people may well be offended by seeing our family make the sign of the cross. Some people wont care. And for some people it might just be the thing that pricks their conscience. For some, seeing that tiny, second long prayer will be the thing that re-ignites their own faith. For some it will give hope in a seemingly hopeless world. And for others, it will be a first – just to see a family all together, praying. They may well have never seen that before in their whole lives.

Which leads me to the blindingly obvious conclusion that to pray in public really isn’t about me at all. When people are staring, they are staring at the sign of the cross – at Jesus, not at me. It’s the most beautiful thing in the world. Who am I to deprive them of the opportunity to do that?

We will be saying Grace in public from now on 🙂

Too busy to pray?

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My Carmelite formation director has asked me to share a few ways in which prayer is part of my ordinary daily life:

“Our charism is very focused on prayer, with Mary as our model in prayer and meditation. Our Carmelite constitutions tell us that ‘Mary preserves in her heart the life and actions of her Son and meditates on them, this is contemplation’. I would be really interested to hear any thoughts you have on prayer and contemplation, because for someone with 3 kids who hasn’t a moment to herself, you would have to be even more creative than the rest of us to be able to do this! – and yet it is possible.”

So lets have a think…. Hmmmm…..

What is Prayer?

Well I guess the first thing is to make very clear what prayer is. St Therese tells us that “Prayer is the raising of ones mind and heart to God.” And it really is as simple as that. At any time, in any situation, I am able to raise my mind and heart to God – either in thanksgiving and praise, contrite and sorrowful, anger and frustration or just simply resting in His peace.

Do not prepare to pray – Just do it!

I think it’s important to say that I don’t prepare to pray. I just pray. I think a lot of people make the mistake of waiting until they are in the ‘right’ frame of mind before they pray. This is a complete waste of time. If I am angry and frustrated then THAT is the time I need to talk to God. He wants me at THAT very moment. I don’t try to hide my negative emotions from God! I Don’t try to present myself during prayer as being on my best behaviour! God sees me ALL the time. He knows my every thought – so why not go to Him just as I am? I cry, kick and scream, I tell Him it’s not fair. I beg Him for His unending mercy. I open my heart to Him, because it is only when I let Him in to my heart that He can actually work with me. Be honest – He knows you are not perfect and He doesn’t expect you to be.

I usually have one of these prayer tantrums at least once a day. I’m a drama queen – what can I say?!

Tell Him you love Him – and mean it.

During a trip to Medjugorje in 2005 I had a very powerful encounter with Jesus during Adoration. He came from the Eucharist and stood beside me and placed His hand inside my chest and onto my heart. He said to me “Clare, you need to come to me everyday and tell Me that you love Me.” He was referring to Himself in the Eucharist.

Now this may sound easy, but to be honest – it’s not. Because for me to say “I love you” I have to mean it. There has to be nothing separating me from Him. There have been some days where I have really struggled to say it. There have been days where i have been unable to say it – and this has illuminated the sin that is separating me from Him. Quite often I say it almost begrudgingly – all too aware of what He is asking me to give up, to leave behind, so that I am able to say it to Him. But there are also the days when it is easy to love Him. And i rest in His love like baby in her Fathers loving arms – and I could literally stay there all day!

Go to daily Mass.

I started going to daily Mass about 10 years ago. It changed my life. The end.

I am able to get to the 9am Mass on my way home from the morning school run. If I have the baby with me we sit with my parents, or sometimes out the back if she is noisy. I have the mass reading downloaded onto my Kindle from Universalis so even if she is screaming i can still follow what is being said. Also, having the responsorial psalm on your Kindle means that it is almost impossible to forget the response after the first time you have said it! (It’s early! My brain doesn’t wake up before 10am!)

Divine Office

As a secular Carmelite I am expected to say at least the morning and evening prayer of the Divine Office each day. But with 3 kids that is not always straight forward. There are days where I simply do not have 20 or even 10 mins to sit quietly to read it. So instead I use divineoffice.org and listen to the prayers instead of reading them. Morning prayer gets played in the car during the school run. A by-product of this is that my 8 year old has started joining in with it! He is listening to the psalms and he knows how to join in with the responses!

Evening prayer usually gets played on my laptop while i am making the dinner or feeding the baby. Prayer and house work go together perfectly in my opinion, proving that it is entirely possible to be Martha and Mary at the same time. Sometimes it is difficult to concentrate, but i always get one or two lines that touch my heart. And to be honest – that is enough for me.

During night prayer (my favourite) i sometimes just sit on the sofa and listen, and sometimes when i have some energy to do stuff in the evenings, i like sewing. And I can tell you this – there is no better past time for contemplation than sewing (other than perhaps jigsaw puzzles – but i only do that on the nights when i am feeling really rock and roll 😉 !!!!)

Contemplation in Motherhood

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ – Matthew 25: 35-40

It is not always easy to see Christ in one’s kids! But the fact is He is there present in each of them. It is even harder to see Christ in one’s husband! But He is there too! This in itself is contemplation enough for one day (my goodness!). I’ll tell you something: You do not know what it means to keep watch with Christ until you have a little one who is teething and just wants to be held, every night, until 3am. Poor little sausage!

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I also try to say the Rosary every day as part of my promise to wear the brown scapular. Again – this is a good one for the car. I have the interactive rosary downloaded onto my phone, so i can play that wherever I am. I even have a speaker in my bathroom that sticks onto the wall so that i can listen to the office or the rosary while i am in the shower!

So there we go. A few ways i am managing to make prayer part of my normal daily life. I don’t manage it everyday – sometimes it is just impossible, but i do manage it most days. And to be honest – it’s just become second nature. It is possible.

If the desire to pray is there, then you will find a way.