Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The moment

My husband and I had the recent privilege of attending a lecture at our parish, given by the president of Catholic Charities in the Denver Archdiocese.  And, what a lecture it was!  Dr. Jonathan Reyes is a brilliant thinker and communicator, and did an excellent job of sharing a historical view of what exactly has led to our era of relativism and government inventions like the disturbing HHS mandate.

I even took notes.  And I never, ever take notes.

Far from being an empty rant or tyrade against progressive governing, it was actually an incredibly convicting and hope-filled exploration of where we are, how we got here, and what we need to do going forward.  I'm still kind of mulling it all over and thinking on what it means, for me personally.

The talk was titled "The Catholic Moment", and included the concept that we have arrived at a time in history where we have great opportunity to live out our faith while sharing truth and love, and that it is nearly impossible to occupy that middle space--where we aren't really standing for anything--any longer.

This is something that Kevin and I talk about regularly, this idea that as society shifts and changes, those of us continuing to live out rather antiquated ideas stick out like a sore thumb.  Which on the one hand can be really annoying (just being honest here!), but on the other, an amazing opportunity too.

An opportunity to seize the moment.

What does this look like for a mom to little ones, I wonder?  Those of us who've chosen to be home with our children often assume that we don't have much influence over the culture or much potential for evangelization.  And, I think that's sad.  (Part of what I loved about Dr. Reyes' lecture was that his exhortations were meant for everyone, and meant to be lived out within the context of everyday life.)

I actually know for a fact that this assumption is ridiculous, because I cannot even begin to tell you the number of people--complete strangers--who regularly approach me when I'm out with my children.

Sometimes they ask questions.

Sometimes they project their own anti-child values.

Sometimes they are nice.

Sometimes they are cruel.

But they're always watching, always curious, always interested in just what exactly we're doing, and if we're finally done having children.

Yes, the whole larger-than-average family thing is, for whatever reason, the main issue people want to know about when it comes to us.  And, I get it.  There are, afterall, a lot of us Heldts trailing through Costco, eating at McDonald's, playing at the park.  I don't blame people for having questions nor do I begrudge anyone for being surprised that a family has seven children, let alone seven children within five-ish years of each other.  Not in the least.

But it has been challenging, too.

Because I don't primarily define our family by the things that make us different (size, adoption, Down syndrome, twins, Catholic, interracial).  I'm really just too busy to think much about it!  And to be completely honest, I would, in fact, prefer if everybody just saw us as being the same as them--even if we do go through toilet paper like some people go through oxygen. 

See, I want to be normal.  I want to be accepted.  I don't want to have to admit that I don't use birth control in the salsa aisle at the store.  

I guess I kind of want to pretend that I'm not really doing anything counter-cultural, at all.

But that is simply not always possible.  Nor is it particularly healthy.  Because while I certainly don't think there's any place for running around drawing attention to oneself (and one's crazy lifestyle), I also think it critical that people share the beautiful, messy, and yes counter-cultural story of faith and of God.  Surely that is part of our purpose, as faithful Catholic women living in the now.  And while my sphere of influence may appear on the surface to be smaller than, say, a woman's with dozens of coworkers, I'll bet those coworkers aren't regularly asking her what are otherwise considered probing and quite inappropriate questions.  Which are really just opportunities for sharing my faith, in disguise.  Even if I'm wanting to hide behind the salsa jars.

And this is why I feel so strongly these days about doing it well

Even if--and when--I don't do it well.

It's something to strive for, at the very least.

And so this is my initial response to the concept of seizing this moment in time.  In the coming days and weeks I hope to consider how to better answer folks' questions and the assorted comments they make (there are a few categories they all tend to fall into so it shouldn't be TOO hard to come up with some standard replies), and ideally this will help me fight the temptation to avoid eye contact while mumbling something lame and incoherent. 

Which I am all too prone to do.

But which does no one any good, and is certainly not taking advantage of a moment that I truly want to seize!

Just in case you're interested in watching the lecture, I've posted it here.  It is SO worth your time, and I'm convinced that we need more people like Dr. Reyes to communicate this message in a calm, intelligent, loving, coherent, and clear way.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  (Skip to 40:00 to begin lecture.)

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