The domestic church is like an enclosed garden; a planned space
for the cultivation, nurture and care of the family.
The present is the only chance to build our family as a domestic church.
One Fruit of a Novena
In the beginning of February, I started a novena for our daughter, Mary. In the last semester of her high school, she is still discerning where to go to college in the fall and her major of study. In looking for the appropriate novena to pray for her, I chose the Visitation Novena which is based on the scriptures of Mary visiting St. Elizabeth since our daughter is named Mary Elizabeth. I trust that the Lord will answer my petition for our daughter through the intercession of Mary and St. Elizabeth. One fruit of praying the novena for me was the grace of a growing desire to “visit” with people.
I am one of those women who makes a big deal of cleaning the house and preparing to host guests in our house. I take hospitality seriously and it is work. I want my guests to be comfortable in our home, enjoy good food, and be delighted to have spent time with us. And we have had many of these gatherings in our home. Although these events are celebrations of special days and holy days, they are not occasions for true visiting. Visiting is a natural and integral part of life or life in a community that was commonplace only a generation or two ago but seems to have disappeared from our regular life today.
"Oohhh, the red screen of death," the cellphone repairman's resigned pronouncement came down like a guillotine for our teen-age daughter. I observed that day how she had to go through a small death, not so much a threat to her life, but to life as she knew it. Sadness, disorientation, anger inevitably resulted from her loss. Recognizing that she is a teen, when the developmental phase is marked by active social participation, and that she belongs to Generation Z, those born into and living with the reality of smartphones, the small death was real for her and no less painful. I was tempted to challenge her on her attachment to the device but thought it would be as unfair as if someone were to challenge me on my attachment to refrigeration. This is life as we know it and sudden change is not welcome.
All our guests were involved in this unlikely Easter drama. International graduate students and visiting scientists, several of whom have not heard about Jesus, joined our family Easter celebration. As my husband drove into our driveway with some guests in the van, they noticed two cats jump out from our egress window well, obviously startled by the approaching motor. Investigating why those cats were in the window well, they saw a baby bunny in one corner with its head burrowed and its white tail up in the air. There are bushes on either side of the well; we guessed that the hunters and the hunted must have all fallen into the window well while in the midst of a frantic chase.
My mom always recalled our birth-stories on our birthdays and we do the same for our children now. I am glad that hospitals allow dads in the delivery room, so the eyewitness account we render to our children about their birth is more accurate and can be recounted by both of us. From the first contractions, to the weather that day, to the drive to the hospital, to medical people who attended to us and procedures done, we recall and share with our children the special moments that made each birth-day memorable - especially when we saw each one for the first time. My husband, our child and I were all the main characters of the event that day and on each birthday, we make present once more that special event in our lives and the life of our family. Then we celebrate!
It is like a match made in heaven - my husband and children, who love cookies, and a neighbor across the street who owns the best cookie shop in the city. The Cookie-Lady, as we call her, comes to our door to deliver the special cookies herself - a large heart-shaped one for Valentine's, fancy colorful iced ones for Halloween, a plate of assorted Christmas cookies wrapped-up with an elaborate bow for Christmas. Whereas customers pay a price for these cookies, we get them as prizes for being her neighbor!
I saw my grandmother today - in the mirror! I was shocked at how I looked so much like her. She had very long hair and always wore it up in a bun with a comb on either side to make sure it stayed in place. A Saturday morning of cleaning out the basement necessitated putting up my hair so it didn't get in the way of sorting many things accumulated and needed to be discarded. Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror temporarily jarred me out of my mission. It has been several decades since my grandmother died and I haven't thought much about her. While my hands got back to working, my mind became busy with memories of her and many loved ones who have died. Lord, have mercy on their souls.
Even very small things that possess beauty move us. From one of his trips to China, my husband brought home a gift for me that I keep on my nightstand because it inspires me to reflect on saints. It is an inside-painted snuff bottle and I am fascinated by how they are painted. Snuff bottles are very small bottles (about 2 inches) that fit comfortably in the hand and used to carry powdered tobacco, which was believed to be medicinal, during the Qing Dynasty in China for the rich and influential people. They were usually intricately and elaborately made to reflect the user's status in that society. Today, they are made as souvenirs. An inside-painted snuff bottle has images painted on the cavity-walls inside a clear bottle, and the images are appreciated from outside of the bottle. Like these clear bottles, we marvel at the beauty that God has painted in the saints' interior lives that we can admire from their exterior lives.
The very first time I saw the movie, "Fiddler on the Roof," as a teen. I was very much impressed at how Tevye, the Russian Jewish peasant prayed to God in a very personal and familiar way while he worked in the barn or in the field. Growing up in a praying family and believing God to be good and loving, my experience of prayer had been mostly communal and when I prayed on my own, they were formal prayers, and an occasional, "Lord, help me do well on my test." I thought that Tevye talked to God that way because he is one of the Chosen People, and they must know Him in a genuinely personal way. I believed that God knew me because He made me, but that was the extent of it.
There were few occasions when my husband missed our son's games. I usually reported the games to him with the major plays and included the contributions our son made in the games. At home (or on the phone if my husband was out of town), he would ask our son, "How was your game?" Despite knowing the outcomes of the games, the high and low points, and particular details of how our son played, my husband always wanted to hear about the game directly from our son. They would proceed to go through a blow-by-blow account of the game with lively commentaries and earnest critiques.