TO: St. Albert the Great Catholic Church, Austin TX
FROM: That Mom
Today I was that mom. I was that mom who walked into church with my hair in a frizzy ponytail and flip flops on my feet. I was that mom who snuck in barely on time, with four daughters under four in tow behind me. I was that mom who forgot to genuflect before entering the pew and whose children climbed into their seats and immediately began asking for snacks. I was that mom whose kids sounded like they were tearing your hymnals throughout the mass (though they didn't, I swear!) and kept trying to talk despite my pleading for whispers. I was that mom who had a hard time corralling my 18 month old who kept squealing and pointing at every thing she saw because I was busy nursing my 7 week old--without a cover or care. I was that mom that I've heard so many Catholics discuss in abstract:
"Why can't she dress with respect for God?"
"Why couldn't she just go into the Cry Room?"
"Snacks during mass? Really?"
You could have easily judged me. In truth, I was judging me already. But you didn't. Instead you chose to love. You chose to love by rushing to hold the door open for our little party of five as we entered. You chose to love by greeting me with sincere smiles and compliments for my daughters. You chose to love by distracting my 18 month old when she began to get fussy. You chose to love this stranger and her family, and for that I am so grateful.
What you couldn't have known is that I have been struggling with post partum depression, and I have felt lost and alone the last couple of months. I've been hiding from God, feeling unworthy and conflicted. Making the choice to go to mass this morning--by myself while trying to handle my four daughters--was not an easy one to make, but I was encouraged to seek God out by friends who knew what my faith means to me. I was almost certain that your congregation would see me as that mom, but instead I felt renewal in my faith as I spoke the prayer with tears in my eyes, "I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God."
I had no doubt that you were praying for me and not picking me apart, that you were offering the love of God not the judgment of society, and that in your church--though I had never been there before--I had found acceptance not condemnation. You, St. Albert the Great Catholic Church, reminded me what it means to be a Catholic, to be part of the universal Church. It may not have seemed like much to you, but it meant the world to me. Thank you for reminding me of my place in our faith. Thank you for choosing to love.