Finding God in the Heart of Your Family
by Mary Kretzmann
Chapter 1: The Task of Motherhood Is Holy
A very special day came to my mind when I prayed about how to begin this book. Normally, I would cherish such a sacred memory within my heart, and yet I have learned, over time, to listen to the inner urgings of prayer. And so, in remembering this day, and in the writing of it, I understand the gift even more deeply, and share it now.
My daughter, Krishnabai, was age four, and Peter, a baby. And David was still a “dream in the mind of God,” as my dad would say. It was a fairly typical morning in which prayer and meditation time had been cut short by the needs of the baby, but I was used to that. Even so, I could not help but wish for a little more time in meditation, for my heart longed for the sacred feelings that I had known there. (I had a goal simply to sit at the altar each day even though I could not guarantee how long it would be! Sometimes it could only happen during the baby’s naptime.) In this mood, I stepped out of the shower and my eyes fell upon a little plaque hanging on the wall with the prayer of St. Francis: Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace…
I was well familiar with the prayer and had prayed it many times before, silently like a poem. It is an inspiring and comforting prayer. But on this morning, something moved me to try and feel how St. Francis might have prayed it; he who had inspired many thousands with his divine spirit by the end of his life! I doubted that he just said it like a little poem…He gave his all in his search for God! So I put my whole heart and strength into it, praying with depth and longing, as a loving demand for transformation:
LORD, make me an instrument of thy peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
Oh Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
I prayed this several times, receiving a special grace in the process, a feeling that the prayer had somehow been answered. And yet, how is this prayer answered if not simply in that we become a more willing instrument of these divine qualities to those around us?
The duties of motherhood called me away from this brief moment of spiritual retreat. I don’t think I resented the interruption for, in general, I felt a sense of joy and purpose in being home with my children while they were so young. Nevertheless, despite this, there were times when I wished for more time for myself, or I wondered if it might be better to be doing something a little more “spiritually rewarding,” or at least something with more adult contact! (These thoughts are common for a young mother. I do have a wonderful husband, and I was blessed to have friends nearby who were also raising young children…but even so, a mother spends many hours alone with her young children, and these thoughts naturally arise.)
Later that morning, as I was lifting up a bucket of rinsed, yet still dirty diapers, and about to dump them into the washer, I felt a sacred presence, strong and unmistakable. The tangible yet invisible presence of St Francis was blessing me as I loaded the diapers into the washer. He who had kissed the leper, and saw the Christ everywhere, was now beside me, blessing me with Peace, in this mundane, unrewarding, and oft-derided task of motherhood. Such a moment moves one’s heart to stillness and absorption, receiving the truth and gift of it… And simultaneously, within this profoundly sacred experience was a lighter, childlike aspect as well: he was simply there as my friend, keeping me company in the midst of my daily routine. In that moment, he fulfilled the “adult company” that I longed for in my day…It happened so many years ago, and yet it is still so clear and touching that he would come then, in that moment, to help me understand more deeply that God is everywhere, in every experience. Our hearts can live in that fullness if we strive to remember and always return to it.
Later in the morning, as I stood hanging out the diapers on the clothesline, gazing past nearby treetops to the mountains in the distance, I felt his presence beside me again, now in this peaceful task of creating a beautiful “fleet” of tiny white sails blowing in the spring breeze. It was a quiet joy to have his presence there, beside me in the moment. My heart felt peaceful, still, and humbly grateful to receive such grace in the midst of something so simple.
I was thus encouraged, and forever reminded, that there are always two sides to every aspect of motherhood, and one follows the other. The challenges and the rewards are intermixed. When we strive to feel God’s presence in the challenges, and in how we meet them, we receive His rewards in ways that are rich and overflowing beyond that which we would invent for ourselves. The task of motherhood is holy, especially when we strive to awaken those seeds of light, strength and goodness in the souls of the young ones entrusted in our care.