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On Being a Bad Catholic

I’m a bad Catholic.  Do you know how I know?  I took my Christmas trees down before Epiphany.  That’s right. By January 2 I couldn’t stand the clutter anymore and we took them down.  I did leave the Nativity scene up, but the trees are gone.

I’ve never done the Liturgy of the Hours.  Never.

I have gobs of kids (10 to be exact) that I don’t know what to do with.  I love them, yes, and I am grateful for them all, but it’s utter chaos here everyday.  Every corner of the bedrooms is taken up with clothes and toys and books.

I don’t love homeschooling.  That’s right.  I don’t love it.  I do it because I feel it’s what God has called me to do but I do it with a bit of kicking and screaming on my part.  There’s no nature walks or classical music playing in the background.  There are workbooks. Yep, workbooks.

My marriage is, well, gosh.  I hope it’s normal with its hills and valleys (and lately it seems like mostly hills).  I’m not so good at the whole humility thing and my pride (the worst of the deadly sins) is the size of the state of Texas.  I haven’t cooked a meal for a new mom in probably two years.  I *do* send gift cards but usually about 2 months late.

I signed up to do the online payment thing through our parish for our weekly contribution and it worked for a good long time and then I think my credit card number got stolen and I never fixed it over at the church.  I need to do that.  We do morning prayer as a family every morning, but there’s a fair amount of me yelling involved.  There’s also a lot of crying and yelling at the dinner table where we gather each night to eat whatever I’ve managed to throw together that day.

My kids take music lessons but don’t really practice that much. My young teens have Facebook accounts.  I listen to all Catholic radio and Christian rock, but some of the kids don’t and my husband definitely doesn’t.  I don’t go to daily mass or even more than Sunday mass anymore.  With four kids under five years old I am lucky to get to Sunday mass (and HDO’s) and I am almost always in some back room nursing and supervising the 2 year old while she cleans out my diaper bag.

I aspire to do great things – celebrate feast days with the appropriate foods, have All Saint’s Parties, and fast on Fridays.  But really we celebrate Halloween (usually wearing Saint costumes, at least), sometimes attend parties that others give, and have decided our Friday sacrifice will be no meat all year instead of just at Lent.

I don’t give up Facebook for Lent (speaking of Lent).  The kids do begrudgingly give up video games, however.  Yes, we have video games.  We don’t have cable but we do have our share of mainstream DVD’s that have nothing to do with God.  We attend confession frequently, I think, once per month (except when I give birth then I usually go longer).  But, we don’t go weekly which is my ideal.

And, yes, I feel a tremendous amount of guilt over all of the above mentioned things.  I feel that it is my duty, along with my husband, to lead our children in the Faith that we have chosen.  And every day I feel that I have failed at this.  You see, I started behind.  WAY behind.  I was a victim of the times, so to speak, and was poorly catechized until I was around 26 years old.  Now I’m playing a mad game of catch up.  Not only in my catechesis but also learning about Saints, Doctrine, Theology, sexuality and, oh yes, learning how to be a homeschooling mother to TEN children.  Did I mention four of them are under five years old?  Each day pushes me to the limits and each night I go to bed wondering two things – 1) How have I failed God today ? 2) How have I failed my children today?

I rarely hear Catholic moms talking about these things.  I see a lot of butterflies and rainbows (I do that on my blog as well).  Those butterflies and rainbows, while they can be inspiring, also make me feel worse about the reality of who I am as a mother, wife, and daughter of God.   I wonder how other mothers of large families manage.  I mean, really, how do they manage?  Do they cry like I do?  Or are they always at peace?  If they are always at peace then how do they make that happen?  I know, pray more, worry less.  A favorite Saint of mine, Padre Pio, said “pray, hope, and don’t worry”.  I wonder how he did that?  Only with the closest relationship with Jesus Christ, I imagine.

Very recently my life started crumbling around me.  Teens and young adults made some questionable decisions and shattered my confidence as a parent.  My marriage went back to it’s old, pre Catholic, ways, and I was yelling a lot.  I may have thrown something.  I cried.  I felt completely unqualified to guide my own soul toward God much less the 10 others that He has seen fit to give me.

This funk went on for nearly 6 weeks.  Frustration, anger, and sadness that everything I have poured my heart and life into for the past 20 years seemed to be meaningless.  As a stay at home mother my “payment,” I thought, was a happy, healthy, holy family.  But I was getting an unhappy, dysfunctional family that was making me crazy.

I must start again.  I must not listen to Satan on my shoulder telling me to give up.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit to still being a bit irked with what has come to light in the last couple of months.  I will have to honestly look at myself and see what my role was in all of it and work on the beam in my eye while fumbling my way through mounds of laundry, sinks full of dishes, diapers, babies, teens, and a husband.  And I’ll try to remember that leaving my Christmas tree up until Epiphany isn’t what makes or breaks my loyalty to Holy Mother Church.

What makes me loyal, I think, is that I don’t give up.  I will get up, dust myself off, and God willing, I will begin again.


Amy Ekblad is a Catholic homeschooling mother to 10 children (so far).  She writes from the beautiful state of Michigan with a baby on her lap and coffee nearby.  She is working on her first book  Heaven Not Harvard and you can read more about her at www.ekblad9.blogspot.com.

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  • A wise man once said, if something is worth doing, then it’s worth doing badly. Keep up the good fight! If I had 10 beautiful children, I’d think I was in Heaven already.

  • Despite all of our best efforts (and the best is different for each of us), our children still have free will and sometimes (frequently even?) make poor decisions. Don’t beat yourself up when they do these things. You have taught them to the best of your ability and they need to be responsible for their actions (despite your horror, disappointment, sadness).
    I too homeschool because I am called to, and not because I love it. I love my children. I love God. He has asked me to homeschool, so I do. We use a variety of things including workbooks, and while I love classical music and Christian music, you are more likely to find my children listening to something else through headphones.

    Oh, and not only do I sometimes cry, I have railed at God and shaken my fist and raised my voice. I can only ask His forgiveness and go on.

    Keep up the good fight.
    Pax et bonum.

  • momofwaitareyouoneofmine

    How’s that saying go? “It’s the thought that counts….” or is it “God knows what is in your heart….”? Either one fits pretty well I’d think. Especially since you’re TRYING, and you actually CARE, and you LOVE them with all your heart. My mother always told me that when we were young and things weren’t going as she planned she was reminded by a priest that God says you provide the love and prayer and I will do the rest.
    Sometimes we try so hard to do everything right (or what we believe is right)that everything starts to suffer and fall apart around us. I don’t have 10 children, only 6 (although 10 could be me someday), and I felt as though I was reading one of my journal entries while reading your blog. I wish I could hug you and come over with coffee, and some extra hands. Sometimes just surrounding yourself with other people who are trying their best (and to some people failing)but non the less falling behind can be so boosting to your morale. The laundry never ends, the dishes keep repeating, the nipple will be cracked again, and the toys will be tripped on all over, but the children WILL NOT be small forever. Blink and you miss it, as I’m sure you already figured out.
    The showy part of Catholic life does not make you a good catholic. Living the values and teaching by example are the things that our children will remember the most and take with them as adults. They have the rest of their lives to learn who Saint Philomena is, and maybe they won’t know who Saint Gerard Majella is until they are praying to help them conceive a child, but they will no where to look and who to turn to when they are suffering or in need, because you taught them that.
    Continuing to march on living the catholic life EVEN when it’s not easy, or filled with support from others, is no easy task. It is a noble, selfless task that speaks values of your faith in God and in the church you claim as your own. These examples cannot be learned by a book, they are learned hands on.
    I think you should pat yourself on the back for “trying”, They might not realize it now but one day when they have children of their own they will,and you will finally see the fruit of the seeds you have sown. God Bless you and your family Amy, you are an inspiration!

  • Katherine Andes

    I wasn’t blessed with ten children, but it was still difficult at times for me with two, especially since my husband passed away when they were little.

    I think we are so blessed with so many creative and beautiful ways to live our faith, that we get greedy. We want to do it all … and when we don’t, we feel like we’ve failed.

    I’m sure you are doing just fine. Trust in Him!

  • Phew! Got my computer working again, found my username and my password too! Now I can say thank you all for the fabulous support and comments! God bless you! I often feel like an outcast in “regular” society (which isn’t a bad thing, I know) and then sometimes in Catholic circles I feel like I fall SO VERY SHORT! I appreciate your comments. 🙂

  • livingatwitsend

    Amy,

    I’m glad I’m not the only one in the trenches and that’s writing about it. I only have five and feel like I’m falling way shorter than you are. I do believe that God hears our pleas and works through whatever mess we’re in or have at the moment to either grow us or show us how much He loves us. Hang in there, pray, pary and pray a lot more.

    Angela
    http://www.livingatwitsend.com

  • fishman

    There are no Good Catholics 😉

    Seriously , only God is Good, realizing you are a sinner is necessary for salvation.

    Jesus says “I did not come to save the just but the sinner”

    So, it is gift to realize you are in need of a savior.

    Saints are not those who did not sin, they are those who did not give up.
    Keep fighting and keep growing.

    • momofwaitareyouoneofmine

      Brilliant. I will be reminding myself of that fact daily. 🙂