Sometimes I make the mistake of separating my spiritual life from my vocation as a wife and mother. I see my children as distractions from prayer and spirituality, rather than an opportunity to love God. On a particularly trying morning with a very fussy infant at church, I spent almost all of Mass outside holding my crying baby and watching Mass through the door. Afterwards, I lamented to a friend about just how hard it all was. “I feel like I’m missing Mass because I’m so distracted! I can’t even pay attention enough to pray.” I said. She replied, “When you’re walking in the Narthex, you’re praying with your feet.”
By living out my vocation to love the children God has given me, I am right where I should be. My life is a prayer. I haven’t ever forgotten what my wise friend said and I think about “praying with your feet” not only during Mass with my squirmy, chatty kids, but as an image of how my work as a mother can be my prayer.
When we’re running late and I am rushing through the house trying to clothe the uncooperative toddler, put the infant in the baby sling, pack the diaper bag, pay the proper attention due to the preschooler’s latest megablocks creation, and try not to lose it with him when he’s too distracted by the fantastic caterpillar he found on the front porch to put on his shoes…..I’m praying with my feet.
When the baby is overtired and wailing while I try to make quesadillas for the big kids’ lunch and the toddler throws all her cheese on the floor and the preschooler starts crying because he wanted peanut butter sandwiches….I’m praying with my feet.
When all I want to do after getting the girls to sleep for nap is collapse on my bed, but I promised the preschooler special time with mama and that I would read him a chapter of a book …I’m praying with my feet.
Parenthood has a thousand tiny opportunities each day for me to offer this work of loving my children to God. But so often I miss those opportunities. I yell because no one has their shoes on and we’re late, or because there’s a huge mess on the floor and a crying, overtired child doesn’t appreciate that I’m doing my best. Or I tell my son that we’ll have to wait until after nap to read books and ignore the disappointment in his big brown eyes. I forget how important this work is. It is the path of holiness that He has called me to. And the work of loving and caring for these precious little people is the most valuable and difficult spiritual work of my life.
I was rocking my baby while trying to pray the Rosary the other day during my holy hour. It’s my one hour a week that I get to experience wonderful silence and only the nursing baby comes with me while the big kids stay with Daddy. She woke up in the chapel wanting to nurse and I thought, “Lord, can’t I even finish praying one Rosary without being interrupted?!” as I reluctantly started to feed her. I looked down at her little happy face, her tiny chubby fingers tugging on my shirt as I held her close. “This is your prayer,” a still, small voice reminded me. Don’t let me forget.