During World War II, all of the men, women, and children who were not enlisted in the military knew that they were still an integral part of the fight. By running factories, living frugally, and keeping morale up, the folks left behind bravely fought the battle on the homefront. Though we are not living in a World War, we still have a battle to wage, a homefront to guard. In a recent homily, Pope Francis spoke of the enemy of our souls who, “wages a war within [us]. This is why [St.] Paul talks about Christian life as a battle, a daily battle.” As wives and mothers, our battleground is the sanctuary of our homes. It is charged to us to spiritually safeguard this sanctuary and keep it as a place of peace and refuge for our families and all who the Lord sends to our door.
In business, there is a saying that “the most important thing is to keep the most important thing the most important thing.” At home this most important thing is raising a family of souls who put their relationship with God first, trusting all else will be added; raising citizens of God’s Kingdom. In a world of so many good and even laudable distractions, keeping first things first is truly a battle.
To Do or To Be?
We all have a sphere of influence within our vocation, within our communities. I am a wife and mother primarily, and many other little things secondarily. My days revolve largely around the life of my family and all that goes with it: cooking, cleaning, keeping house, earning money, supporting community. These are the functional areas of my life. But as an eternal being, a daughter of the most high God, my true “function” is not a function at all. I am called to be.
The old Baltimore Catechism says we are created to know, love, and serve God in this life so that we can be happy with him forever in the next. “Know and love” come before “serve.” “Know and love” are not functional words; these words refer more to our being than our doing. If I ignore this part of myself and slip into a pattern of just constantly doing, I lose the most important part. As a wife and mother, this being must not always be moving at 100 miles per hour, from task to task to task, from job to meeting to market. Not only do I rob myself of the best part of life, by example I teach my family to do the same. By taking time just to be with my family and for our family to be with our friends, relatives, neighbors, and whomever God puts in our path, I am demonstrating the value I put on being over doing. If I have no time to just be with people, by default, I am ranking doing over being. The only way to keep being over doing is to purposefully build extra time into my daily schedule.
A good garment is constructed with a decent sized seam allowance. It allows for alterations, changes to be made. It gives the garment strength and durability. By purposefully scheduling extra time into our daily calendar I add seam allowance to the garment of our family life. If our schedule changes in the middle of a busy day, the spare time allows for peace instead of panic. Seam allowance strengthens the garment under stretching, or stress. In the midst of a family crisis, no tear occurs, in fact the strength of the family becomes apparent, giving a deep feeling of peace and security to all the members.
Most garments today have almost no seam allowance and neither do most lives. Too often our society is frayed at the edges. Upon a providential meeting of a friend at the store, we cannot take ten minutes to talk because we don’t have ten minutes to spare. If a child quietly tries to get our attention to speak about a difficulty at school, we don’t even notice because we are late for the next task. When a relative calls to confide a trouble, we have to cut the conversation short. Grace is cut off because we are overscheduled. We do not have time for the good and the grace that the Lord wanted to pour into our busy days. As a result, children are not heard, souls are not consoled, prayer needs are not shared, and community is not formed. With seam allowance we are able to be present to that person God places in front of us, to hear what they are saying, to break the power of isolation, to love one another in small but powerful ways.
Making Cuts So to be Present
Over this past Christmas school break, towards the end of the week I finally found myself on the couch with a book. In this time my children saw that I was actually available to them, that they could talk to me and not be interrupting something, or just catching my leftover attention. By the end of the break the relationships in our family had returned to “normal” and I felt I knew the people in my house again. My husband and I realized that we needed to strive to make this the norm rather than the exception. So with the New Year came some changes, some cuts, designed to leave a little seam allowance in our lives.
The thing is this, everything we cut was good. We did not cut out things that were intrinsically negative. We gave up good things. And it wasn’t the first time we made these life edits. In this battle on the homefront, the enemy of our souls is very, very smart. He knows he is not going to distract me with the things of the world, with things he could use against me when I was younger. Instead, the enemy tempts me, and often wins by offering good things in place of the best.
Well, this committee needs help and I have the skills they are looking for.
This is an important cause and if I don’t take a stand for it, who will?
Or the more insidious:
So-and-so is running this project and I want to help her…and I want her to like me.
I am indebted to this group and really owe it to them to get involved.
I am not saying we shouldn’t be involved. I am not saying we shouldn’t serve. I am saying that the battle on the home front in this our day and time has shaped up directly against the home itself, and against being in that home.
Joy in the Home
Psalm 128:3 says: Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your home. The psalmist writes of the blessed man, of the blessed family, when describing this wife. There is grace inside the home. There is fruitfulness inside the home. There is Holy Spirit power inside the home. The enemy knows this and will do all he can to keep us, even if we are running around doing very good things, outside of our homes. As a husband is the head of the household, so the wife is the heart. If the heart is not in the home, it can become just a house. It can become just this place where we stop in between busyness. But there is power in being at home. Contrary to what the secular world wants us to believe, there is power in being at home.
When a friend can stop by and have a cup of tea, be listened to and really heard, encouraged and sent on her way, to her home, to her family, that is power. When a child can come home at the end of a discouraging school day to find his mother who will listen, or joke, or play a game and change the whole tenor of that day, that is power. When a husband can come home, out of an increasingly divisive and antagonistic world, to be loved and cherished and restored by his wife and children, that is power.
The enemy knows this. He isn’t battling at the homefront for the fun of it. He knows this is where his best victories are won. He knows that when the home becomes a house and nobody is there, that power is shut off and just a little bit more isolation, loneliness, and even despair can creep into the world.
Employing the Weapon of Prayer
In the extreme busyness of life I have increasingly found myself praying my rosary in the car or while doing chores. I start it on the way to work. I say another decade on the way to pick someone up. I finish it while folding laundry. Now this is good, and certainly better than not praying it. It is good, but not the best. Our Lady, in her ever gentle way, asked me if I wouldn’t sit down at home for one of those decades. This was not just her kindness to her harried daughter; this was a lesson in how best to use the rosary, which St. Padre Pio called the weapon for our times. It is not best employed with half the heart, half the mind. It is best employed fully present, and in the home. Yes, prayer groups are powerful; I belong to one and pray with others at every opportunity. The home, however, is the domestic church, and as such, it should be prayed in. Daily.
In all of her apparitions throughout the history of the Church, Blessed Mother has asked us to pray, and especially to pray for peace. She who will crush the head of the serpent knows her weapons and knows how to train her children to be powerful against our enemy. By encouraging me to pray in a more present manner at home she is training me to be powerful against my enemy and to allow God’s peace to enter a world sorely in need of it.
More than Enough
In a recent heartbreaking conversation, an absolutely beautiful wife and mother said that she kept coming up against the feeling that she “was not enough.” This is a woman who does regular mighty deeds for the Lord, who has a beautiful family with flowering vocations and is an absolute pillar of every community she is a part of!
The enemy has lied to her and she was tempted to believe it. We are not what we do. No one can do everything that needs to be done. The enemy knows this and will turn it around on us to make us believe that the fault lies with us rather than with false expectations. This beautiful woman and you are already more than enough for Jesus. He loves and accepts you just as you are, in all of your striving and working. Reject the enemy’s lies and take charge again of your home front.
“…For the battle is the Lord’s…” (1 Samuel 17:47)
Pope Francis and St. Paul are right. This Christian life is a battle. As a wife and mother I fight on the homefront. My husband and children can tell you just how often I lose that battle, how often I choose that which is good over that which is best (not to mention the times I choose that which isn’t good at all). There are times and seasons of busyness that cannot be avoided. Part of the battle is discerning when we need to accept the season we are in. Our fight, our conflict, is not to allow this busyness to become the norm. Instead, we are called to swash buckle through the onslaught of good things and learn the firm habit and boundary of saying, “I will pray about it” or just plain, “No” when asked to get involved in something.
So how do you liberate yourself? How do you accept this battle and jump in? The answer, as with everything in the spiritual life, is by prayer. Pray and let God know that you are ready to battle for your home front. Ask Him what changes you need to make. Say a rosary on your very own couch and ask Our Lady to help you with a battle plan. Chances are you probably already know some things that you are involved in that you needed to let go of long ago. Listen to what God tells you in the quiet of your heart. Take that first step that you know you should. Be prepared for a counter-attack of many offers of good, but not best, things. Be willing to be looked at as foolish, or uninvolved, or whatever your cuts may look like to others.
Ultimately, remember that the battle is the Lord’s. Yes, we have our part to do, but the Lord has promised to be with us every step of the way. He is all about lifting burdens off of us, not yoking us in slavery to a to-do list. Remember, you are doing it for the best. God gave you your vocation, your family. He best knows how to run it and even, gulp, how to fund its survival. Trust Him. Be His homefront warrior and let the power of peace begin to flow through you to the whole world.