Betty Duffy

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pa rum pa pum pum

I dropped in at our Advent Penance Service the other night and went to Confession. It was just about the last thing I did before I went home and to bed, and I woke up the next morning feeling optimistic, as I had not yet, to my knowledge committed a sin that day.

Fulton Sheen said that innocents, penitents and Priests are all to be found at the foot of the Cross, as Mary Mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and St John all remained through the final hours of the Crucifixion. I want to be one of those people too, and since ‘Priest’ is out of the question, only innocent or penitent might do.

It’s always during Advent that I most want to identify with Mary Mother of God. She’s waiting quietly, preparing, pondering. I try to adopt these virtues, but I always feel the tiniest bit of envy towards Mary, being without concupiscence, bearing a baby who will never sin. Immediately after Confession, purified for the moment, of any wrongdoing, is the closest I come to that kind of innocence.

So the morning after Confession, I set out on my day trying to mimic the Mother of God. I said my prayers. I made coffee. I greeted my children with a smile, and then all hell broke loose. I’ve done a lot of complaining about my kids lately, and I could give you a play by play of the morning that would absolve me of at least a little bit of culpability for how things turned out—but to be clear, they’re kids and I’m a grown-up who can behave with as much vim and vigor as the most hellish of hellions given the right circumstances.

Maybe if I were a nicer person, my kids wouldn’t be so contradictory towards each other. Maybe it’s right after Confession that the Devil fiddles with us and most wants to make us fail. But a few minutes into our conflicts it seems laughable that I could ever respond differently to the troubles that arise in our family. My responses are as automatic as sneezing, as predictable as each new day. I am the mother that I am. They are the kids that they are. All of us are human, and hence, by 8:30 that morning, I was on my knees on the living room floor, once again asking God for resources that don’t come naturally to me.

Patience was gone. Quiet was gone. Calm waiting had dissipated into havoc, and I was, as always, the penitent. I’d say the whole process, from innocent to penitent, took about fifteen minutes from waking up.

During Advent, we remove our 12 inch statue of the Pieta and replace it with a Manger Scene. I was struck that morning by the irony of asking a child for the strength to be a grown-up. Little Baby, I’m sorry when I get upset with my babies. Little Baby, show me how to raise my babies. It’s odd.

So much has been written about how God disguises himself in the most unlikely places-- in an infant, in the Eucharist, in one another--and how he waits in these disguises for us to seek him. This year’s Advent has been a confirmation for me that I need not do the waiting for a God who is already present, but rather, that I should go to Him wherever he hides, waiting for me.

Go to Confession. Go again if necessary. Go to Mass. Go to the places where I can pray, and offer him my sinfulness, my failure, my penitence. Innocence is God’s. Penitence, however, is mine, and it’s all I can offer Him that he does not already possess.


BlessedMom said...

I've just found your blog, and I'm hooked!! Thanks so much for an honest portrayal of a faithful Catholic mother!! The humor is fantastic!

Peter and Nancy said...

I just love the last sentence of this post . . . we've been trying to impress upon our most wayward kid the idea rules are there because we love him and know what's best for him, in hopes that he will understand that's why God has rules for us too.

I will use your idea to help him understand God's mercy and forgiveness, and the always-offered chance to return in repentance. I think that seeing it as a gift we can give back to our Abba might sweeten the deal a little bit for him.

Claire said...

This is so good.
My meditation for this Advent was "what do I have to give (that's uniquely mine)?" and I kept coming up with...nothing. But I love the last sentence and was thinking of it throughout Christmas Mass today!
Thank you.

Karen said...

I like the idea of seeking God where He is hidden - going to Him! Enjoyed this post.

It doesn't take me long to go from innocent to penitent, either.

Hope said...

I love your honesty and your hope.

TS said...

Great post; Hope stole my line appreciating your hope.

My Feminine Mind said...

When you said, God disguises himself in th e most unlikely of places, and you were talking about Baby Jesus, I thought about God disguised in our children. Especially for me, my children are not at the age of reason yet, so they don't sin, it seems like an especially effective way to help me be patient, to think "How would Mary parent Jesus?" Great post!