Every autumn, Catholic moms brace themselves for the beginning of what seems like non-stop activity: kids in school, extracurricular activities, professional and volunteer commitments. As women and as moms we fill our lives with activities that put other people’s needs ahead of our own. We can’t help it. That’s how God made us. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that women are endowed with the qualities of “devotion, sacrifice, and love.” We are at our happiest when we express those qualities at home, in the workplace, and in our community.
As a busy mom who juggles professional, family, and parish commitments, I agree with the venerable Archbishop. I know many women who personify the attributes he mentions. I also know that as we give so much to those around us, we neglect ourselves. Self-care is often a forgotten part of our lives.
As a registered nurse, I constantly see what happens when we don’t look after ourselves; and it follows that if we are not at our best physically, mentally, and spiritually, we are not at our best for the people we serve.
We don’t need to read another article about eating well, exercising, or losing weight. If we’re honest, most of us will admit to multiple failures in these three areas.
Instead of focusing on the number of calories, pounds/kilograms on the scale, or the number of laps on the elliptical, maybe it’s time to focus on why we need to take good care of our body. John Cardinal O’Connor said:
“God wants to reach out to others through your hands. He wants to speak to others through your lips, and God wants others to look in to your eyes and see Him.”
In other words, God wants us to use our bodies for His work; therefore, we need to be ready for action. A healthy body has energy and enthusiasm to share the Good News.
Studies show that stress affects the body’s ability to resist infections and is a leading factor in physical and mental illness. While stress itself is not necessarily harmful, the way in which we handle it is important. St. Therese of Lisieux wrote:
“Everything is a direct effect of our Father’s love… difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul’s miseries, her burdens… her needs… everything because through them, she learns humility and realizes her weakness. Everything is grace because everything is God’s gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events, to the heart that loves, all is well.”
The Little Flower had a wonderfully healthy attitude regarding life’s ups and downs. She had confidence in Divine Providence and God’s Will for her life. We ought to ask St. Therese to pray for us that we may have her faith and confidence.
Many apostolates would be glad to have extra help. As Catholic moms who love our brothers and sisters in Christ, sometimes we don’t know when to say “no.” Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, used to tell parents that their first responsibility is to their families. Sometimes that means saying “no” to various ministries and volunteer opportunities. We don’t have to feel guilty for turning down a new parish initiative or a committee at our children’s school or homeschooling group. “No” really is a love word.
Gratitude allows us to experience life in all its fullness. Gratitude for life, for each new day, for each new opportunity to serve God in our neighbour makes us aware that each moment is a gift. Each day, write down five things you are grateful for. Ask God to grant you the capacity to be grateful for the smallest, most mundane things of life.
The source of all our peace and strength is contained in the Holy Eucharist and we know that frequent reception is ideal. But teething babies, overactive toddlers, and the seemingly infinite number of items on our to-do list makes daily Mass and frequent reception of Holy Communion impossible.
In those times when our duties at home and at work prevent us from receiving Communion on days other than Sunday Mass, we can say a short Act of Spiritual Communion:
“My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though Thou were already there, I embrace You and unite myself wholly to You, permit not that I should ever be separated from You.” (St. Alphonsus Ligouri)
Often, short prayers are all we can give to Our Lord. He knows our hearts. He understands our situation. He appreciates our efforts.
Our Blessed Mother was a busy mom as well; but unlike us, she had the grace of being perfectly contemplative as well as perfectly active. As she managed the household without the aid of modern conveniences, she beheld God. As the perfect wife and mother, she wants so much to help us if we let her.
While we don’t have the gift of contemplating the Christ Child in the same way as Mary, we can remember St. Teresa of Avila’s words that “God is in the pots and pans.” He is also in the messy living room, the diaper that needs changing, the crowded commute to work, and the project deadline that is looming too close for comfort. God is with us wherever He has placed us and in whatever work He has given us. We can contemplate Him in our hearts, especially in the most challenging times.
Many times, it feels like there is no end to the demands on our time and energy, but we gladly dig deeper and give what we have. It’s important to keep replenishing our well so that we can be women for others, women for God. The only way to do that is to take the time to look after our physical, mental, and spiritual well being. Starting today.