Thursday, November 12, 2015

Life Lessons Through Faith and Family

Editor's Note: We're excited to share this beautiful reflection from mom and Spirit Mornings co-host Jen Brown. Jen wrote this piece for her parish blog.

Life Lessons Through Faith and Family

Psalms 18:2: "The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

This is the first time the parish has featured a blog from the point of view of a parishioner. And this is the first time I have ever done a blog ... so you, dear reader, get to ride along for many firsts today. Please bear with me.

Some people will be able to relate to this blog as a parent; others as a single mother of a son.

Most of you might know that I walk with a cane and wear a brace on my right ankle. I was in a terrible motorcycle accident 16 years ago that took the life of my brother and left me with some permanent damage. As a result, my son and I always sit in the four south side floating pews, behind the altar servers, at Queen of Apostles Corpus Christi. This way I can get to Communion and back with ease.

My mother taught me something very important growing up at Mass: we always sat within the first few pews because kids pay closer attention when you're in the front. When I began going to Mass at Queens, I was drawn to the Children's Liturgy of the Word and this little section of the pews where I thought my son Jackson would pay attention. I could always point out what the priest was doing and the important parts of the Mass from where we were sitting.  A parishioner told me this year as my son was getting ready to go off to college that she remembered him as a little boy, sitting there, mouthing along with the priest during the consecration prayers. I thought I was the only one who noticed that! He did pay attention sitting in front.

Another lesson from my mother was to get involved at your parish. Do outreach things because it’s good for others and for you, she said. I didn’t understand this when I was young but as an adult and a mother, at my new parish, it made so much sense. Children’s Liturgy of the Word was something so special to be involved in because Jackson and I could do it together. He helped me prepare the day before, doing the required shopping or putting a skit together. He also got to carry up the book we used in the Mass procession.  For a 5 year old, this was tops! As he grew, Jackson took on bigger roles as he helped me with the children’s liturgy. And as a single parent, if I volunteered to help with something at the parish that usually meant that he was helping too. I hope this idea of "serving others serves you" will translate in his adult years like it did for me. My little boy grew into a fine young man who became a lector at our parish and a Eucharistic minister at his school, St. Albert. I once heard him tell the bishop during an interview what a privilege it is to be an EME and deliver Jesus to others.

Being the parent of a very active youngster, and being an active individual myself, there were also times of great difficulty, when I didn't quite make the right decisions or put my faith first. But prayer was always a way to help ground us both. I tried very hard to end every day with prayer together and start meals with prayer. We were even on the rotation to get the chalice for vocations. Jackson thought that was pretty cool. He had the vocations prayer memorized.

As parents, we can encourage our children's prayer lives to grow in many different ways. We can tell them about different retreats, have them be a part of different ministry groups at school or the parish, and give them gifts that will oriented them in a prayer life. These were all easy things to do when my son was under my roof, and I had him under my protective arms. But this year he graduated and is headed out into the world. I no longer know where he was on a regular basis. I no longer get to pray with him every night. At times I wonder if I did enough or said enough or taught him enough.

During one very tearful spiritual direction session, I was reminded that someone loves my son more than me: our Lord, who sacrificed everything for all of us.

Jackson has been away at college now since June. He got a scholarship to play football at the University of Northern Iowa, and had to be up there early to start working out with the team. It has been hard to go to Mass by myself, to say the Our Father and not hold my little boy's hand. It's hard to trust that the Guardian Angel Prayer that I say sometimes on an hourly basis will get me through to the next moment. But I do it because it DOES. My faith always pulls me through.

My lifetime has been blessed many times over. As parents, children are one of the greatest blessings we get.

I will end with a prideful (indulgent) tale. A lot of hard work, blood, sweat, tears, and prayers culminated this month on Sept. 5 when the University of Northern Iowa played at Iowa State. It was Jackson's first game as a Panther. I had barely made it to my seat to watch him (red shirt freshman) and his teammates run on the field. He ran with them to the end zone, where they kneeled down and prayed. When they were finished, Jackson stood up and made the Sign of the Cross, and I thought my heart might burst - not for pride of his accomplishment as a football player, but for the pride of the love of the Father, whose love had carried us through one more day.

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