My husband and I entered the Catholic Church Easter vigil 1999. Thanks be to God! Among the many blessings of our Catholic faith is the knowledge that we don’t have to figure it all out ourselves. We are not on our own. We have the sacraments, the communion of the Saints, and the Magisterium to guide us. But even though we aren’t on our own, in the spiritual and universal sense, I do sometimes feel a bit alone in the cultural sense.
We live in a small, rural town in Arkansas – smack in the middle of the Bible Belt. Growing up here, I knew two Catholics. Two. There are more Catholics here now, but my children are still very much in the minority among their peers.
To make things more challenging, neither my husband nor I were raised Catholic, so we don’t have much experience with Catholic customs and traditions. Fortunately, since our conversion, my mother and my brother, Michael, and his family (and our former pastor and his wife) have converted to Catholicism. So we do have Catholic family. But Michael lives 500 miles away. They live in Maryland, and he works for the John Paul II Institute for Faith and Family. His kids go to Catholic school. All their friends are Catholic. They are immersed in Catholic culture. I’m not going to lie. I’m jealous. Happy for them, but jealous.
All of this is to say, that it has been a struggle raising our children Catholic – not in terms of the Faith, we love the faith, but in terms of giving them a truly Catholic experience. I try, but it’s not how I was raised, and there is little support or fellowship where we live, so I feel like I’m just skimming the surface of what Catholic life could be. Sometimes, I feel like we don’t even have our toes in the water. Here are just a few of my Catholic Mom Fails.
- Recently, my older daughter shouted, “The first shall be last!” to a car that cut her off in the parking lot after mass. Not exactly what I had in mind when I encouraged scripture memorization. Thank goodness the windows were up.
- My younger son was four years old before I realized that he thought the words to the Our Father were “Our Father, who aren’t in Heaven, Hal would be thy name.” My husband’s name is Hal, so it kind of makes sense.
- We have celebrated name days maybe two times. We have four kids. Half of my children have never had a single name day celebration.
- When one of my kids doesn’t know a who someone from the Bible is, I say, “Oh that’s right, you weren’t raised Protestant.”
- This past summer our girls attended their first Catholic wedding. The rest of us have never been to a Catholic wedding.
- We have never had a Jesse Tree.
- I haven’t put out the Advent wreath for the last two years because I felt so defeated by how few times we remembered to light it in the past.
- Once I forgot to put Baby Jesus in the creche until December 27. (Protestants don’t wait).
- My children’s idea of a nun is Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act.
- Once for our parish All Saints party, I let my daughter wear her ladybug Halloween costume and go as an Our Lady Bug.
- Once I let her dress as a flower, and she told everyone she was The Little Flower – okay, that one was pretty adorable.
- My kids think meatless Fridays are a treat because they get frozen fish sticks and French fries.
- My children refer to their cousins as really Catholic
Since our conversion, I have fantasized about raising really Catholic kids. I’ve dreamed of elaborate name day celebrations and nightly family rosaries complete with candle lighting. I’ve imagined volunteering at their Catholic school where their teachers, Sister Mary Ignatius and Sister Mary Augustine would lead them in the Angelus each day at lunch. I’ve longed to name a baby Benedict.
As it is, I would just be happy if they each knew which Saint they were named for. We pray a morning offering in the car on our way to public school. I keep icons and holy images around the house to remind them that we are really Catholic. I try to use Catholic expressions like “Offer it up!” And while I don’t do name day feasts, I do make Confess Your Sin-amon Rolls for a treat after the kids have been to reconciliation.
Still, sometimes I worry that our home and our lives don’t look much different from those of their Protestant friends. Then I overhear when one of their friends asks if we worship Mary or believe in the Bible. And my kids know the answer! I laugh when my daughter tells me how many people favorited her Confess Your Sin-amon Rolls tweet. I watch them kneel and make the sign of the cross and recite the creed at mass, and I know that the beauty of their faith is sinking in little by little.
Bottom line, we are doing the best we can to raise Catholic children in very Protestant soil. But my children are really Catholic. Imperfectly, beautifully, completely Catholic. May the Saints preserve us!
What is your best #catholicfail or #convertproblem?
A Little About Laura from Charming Farming:
My husband and I live on a farm in the Ozark Hills of Arkansas. We have four kids, three dogs, twenty chickens, eight ducks, and a herd of buffalo. I teach high school speech and drama, and I love it, but my dream job would be full-time writing and farming. My other dream is to be able to get a good latte without having to drive an hour. I blog at charmingfarming.com and youngcatholicsdaily.com.
Michelle @ needle and nest says
I stopped reading all those super Catholic mommy blogs a while back because I just can’t compete. We’ve never done the name day celebration. We don’t homeschool. We don’t do special ceremonies with candle lighting – I have three kids and worry about burning down my house! But we do go to mass, my kids go to Catholic school, and I’m slowly learning to raise my Catholic flag and to fly it proudly. Every day is another chance to do better. And I’ll let you in on a secret… I was born and raised Catholic but didn’t really start to *get* my faith until about two years ago. Thank goodness God is patient!
Yes! Thank goodness indeed. And I’m counting on the Blessed Mother to take up the slack for all the ways I drop the ball.
I loved reading this post. My family has had the opportunity to live in several kinds of “soil” over the 22 years (this Thursday) of married-with-children life. We had 8 years in the Bible Belt, and so many of the things you mention brought back memories. I am also a re-vert ~ raised by two converts in the ’60’s and ’70’s in California ~ and struggle at times with worries about how to create a Catholic culture in our home and among our neighbors. It is harder when you aren’t surrounded by like-minded families, for sure. One recent addition to our domestic church is our “home-shrine”. This was introduced to us through a nearby Schoenstatt Shrine. The nutshell description is that each family member has made efforts to deepen his relationship with Our Blessed Mother, striving to enter into a Covenant of Love with her ~ which is to say, a more consciously lived out relationship with her in our daily lives. As a family, we invited our Lady to come and live with us, and we dedicated a special corner of our home to her with her image, as a place to gather for family prayer and as individuals…to help us remember her constant presence as our Mother and Queen … and also to remind us that our entire home is truly her little shrine ~ a place of grace. There is more that I could say about it. However, I mention this in the hope that it won’t make anyone feel a “failure” ~ rather to show that God is full of surprises and gifts of all kinds ~ which He gives to each family as He desires and sees fit. I think your blog inspires me because this beautiful truth shines forth in your descriptions of the things you and your children have been inspired to do and say… Your description of your “failures” reveals an openness to God and His grace as you make your pilgrimage through this life as a family. Thank you for posting it!
Thank you for your kind words. I love the idea of a home shrine too. Thanks for sharing that.
Aw It sounds like you are doing a beautiful job! My family converted to Catholicism in 1999 too! I’m the oldest, and I wasn’t quite a teenager at the time. We also never had a Jesse Tree, I really wasn’t sure what name days were until you brought them up, and weren’t that great about lighting the Advent wreath. We all turned out pretty Catholic- all went to wonderful Catholic colleges and I’m married to a wonderful cradle Catholic, and we are soon to have our second little cradle Catholic in May :) I think it’s important not to focus on comparisons, and revel, as you have in the beautiful faith that is growing in your children and your own hearts! Oh, and I love the Sin-amon roll idea!
Thanks! I don’t mean to compare, but since I have not idea what raising children in a Catholic culture is supposed to look like, I have to look to other families. But I don’t think name day celebrations are all that common. I just happen to have a friend who is really good about doing them with her kids.
Giedrė (@WalkingDotPhoto) says
Hahaha, love that family photo! Too cute! Also: I completely understand your woes – I lived in North Carolina for ten years and being located right in the middle of the bible belt as a catholic can definitely be challenging. :)
Definitely challenging. But I’m sure we are right where God wants us.
Beth Anne says
I feel like some of these “really catholic things” to do with your kids have only popped up in the last few years. I was raised by super devout parents (my mom even works for the church) and I had never heard of a name day or baptism day celebrations until a few years ago. I also think there is such thing as doing TOO much and then your kids will be annoyed/hate the church…so you have to find what works best for you.
One year our Advent Wreath caught fire..and we didn’t get a new one for awhile LOL
Good advice. I find my kids are less annoyed by any Catholic celebration that involves food or gifts. Ha!
The sin a mon rolls made me laugh. I was raised catholic in a very catholic neighborhood and we’ve never done name days or jesse trees. And we did regular Halloween like all the public school kids. My friend dressed as Hitler to what turned out to be an all saint party.
I do however, understand what you’re saying about giving a rich culture along with faith. That has to be intentionally built up, right, even for the cradle Catholics, or the faith itself makes very little impression on the gown up child.
You sound like you are doing a great job, and making us all laugh along the way.
Thanks! I laugh at myself too – that helps!
Haha! I love these. The “Our Lady Bug” made me giggle. As a very recent convert, I sometimes have trouble knowing what to do or how to teach things to my kids (I was an atheist for 10 years, so I’m really rusty on prayer and have never memorized scripture). We are very fortunate to have a vibrant parish and close community of Catholic friends, so I get lots of help.
It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job raising “really Catholic” kids!
Kelly @ In the Sheepfold says
All of us need to do the best we can, and not buy into a lot of guilt (Catholic though that may be!). Live the sacraments. Let our children see us rely on the grace of the eucharist and confession. The rest is nice, but not essential. I think we’ve done the Jesse Tree once.
My seven year old is memorizing the Act of Contrition. The other day he attempted to say it while sleepy and a little distracted and came up with, “I firmly intend to avoid penance and do whatever leads me to sin.” Too funny.
That’s really funny. When my son was preparing for his first communion I had to remind him that Father would not give him a cookie for getting his act of contrition right – that was just a mommy thing.
My favorite part about this post: Confess your Sin-amon Rolls! CLASSIC! I want to raise a *really* Catholic family too, and am failing pretty well so far. :-/ Sigh. I really like your idea of praying a morning offering in the car together though! :)
I’ve decided to try to do a better job with celebrating the saints. That’s fairly easy – food! For Saint Patrick’s Day this year I made Shepherd’s Pie and an Irish Cream Cake. At dinner we played Saint Patrick trivia. The family loved it and it wasn’t too difficult.
You are too hard on yourself! I can’t tell you how many times we missed out on the Jesse tree because my 4 wouldn’t stop playing with the candles…or how our rosaries used to go “Hail Mary…Joshua!…full of grace…Josh…the Lord is with thee..Josh!…blessed art thou..JOSH-U-A!” Phew, that was rough! My kids did pick out a patron saint and get a blessing when it’s time for bed. You do the best you can. Just do the best you can and remember they’re watching you. Oh, and, we ALL have embarrassing stories…
Oh! That’s right my kids get a blessing at bed time too. Most nights. Your rosaries sound familiar, just different names. Love it.
When my son was 3, he got up on the stage (altar) and started singing Shalom (a Wiggles song) after I had just baptized my goddaughter. The priest started to wonder about my friend’s choice for a Catholic Godmother.
That’s a hoot!
Caroline M says
This is awesome, because your kids will be used to being a religious minority! This is an important life skill, truly. The evangelicals growing up in the Bible Belt have a tendency to think that everyone thinks like them, but your kids are already used to having people question them about their faith.
That’s an excellent point. Thanks!
Amy @ GoForthAndMother.com says
I died laughing, these are amazing! Especially that photo at the end :) :) The Friday thing is funny, too. I was recently at a conference in Texas, and went out to a restaurant with some people I met – my only stipulation was that there must be a vegetarian option, since I was Catholic and it was Lent. One of the girls started going on about how she didn’t get how it was a penance, since cheese pizza and ravioli and everything were the best foods ANYway. Let me tell you, it sucked not being able to eat bbq in TEXAS! lol :)
Daja @The Provision Room says
Confess your Sin-amon rolls!!!! I love that!! I’m totally doing that!!!!
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Clarice A. says
My catholic fail as a mom was when we finially had our 15 year old daughter baptized at Easter vigil. Our parish is strict and requires the kids up to age 17 to wear all white outfits for their baptism.The boys have to wear a white suit and tie and the girls have to wear the poofy,short sleeve,top of the knees dress,with a matching bonnet,under shirt,cloth diaper,plastic pants[rubberpants] white tights and the white mary jane shoes.I didnt realize that the white tights when worn over a cloth diaper and rubberpants have a tendency to slide down over them! Our daughters tights kept sliding down over her diaper and rubberpants and she had to pause every so often and pull them back up!I found out later that the waist band of the tights is normally pinned with small safety pins to the waist band of the rubberpants to prevent the problem!
Corrine J. says
To Clarice A.-Yes i have heard a number of times from other catholic moms that that is a fairly common problem with the tights sliding down over the cloth diaper and rubberpants! A mom at our parish a few years ago hit on a solution when she was dressing her 16 year old daughter for her confirmation.She got some safety pins about an inch or so long and pinned the waist of her daughters white tights to the waist band of the rubberpants,then tucked the bottom of her camisole in under the diaper,rubberpants and tights.It caught on rapidly and the next year and from then on the moms pinned their daughters tights to the rubberpants for baptisms,first communion and confirmation.The white dresses and veils with the white tights,camisole,diaper,rubberpants and white patent leather shoes are required for the girls first communion and 10th grade confirmation.