Family and Motherhood by Fr. Timothy Vaverek
Waco Catholic Moms Retreat
May 6, 2017
This is pieced together from notes I took during Fr. Timothy’s talk.
I have two parishes I head. I am the pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes in Gatesville, and St. Thomas in Hamilton. I have been a priest in this diocese since 1985 with a short 3-year stint in New York serving the bishop of the Maronite Church there in New York.
The relationship between us and God is not adversarial. We are not in opposition to Him. Rather He did not create us to benefit Himself. God did not create us because he needed us. He did not create us because He would gain some benefit. He created us because it would benefit us.
Growing up I had to help with the family farm. I had to help weed and harvest. I remember harvesting beets down the line and it was a long field. We would complain about the hard work and My Dad would say keep your head down and you will know when you get to the end of the field. Over dinner my brother said that the teacher said people used to have large families because they needed laborers on the family farms. Then my brother exclaimed that he didn’t think that was true because kids are crumby workers.
Parents do not have children because it benefits the parents. They eat up time and resources, and it is really hard to raise children. We have children because it benefits them to be alive, experience love and know God—the true, the beautiful, the good.
Kids represent an expression of love. For a moment, a mother and father came together in one flesh and made a child. Then God creates a soul in that newly united body. In a good world, this is how a person is created.
There were seven of us in my family. I was the second. We were all strong-willed children. At one point, my older brother and I knew about a new baby coming before my dad did. We were raising hell as usual and my mom muttered, “No, I can’t do this for another nine months.” Of course, we immediately figured out that nine months means another baby. She told us to go wait for her in the bathroom. Then she came in and cried at us that we had to help her. How was she going to tell our father that there was another one coming.
One year we lost a brother. Donald was born early and he only lived two days. We buried him on Christmas Eve. When he was born he only had a 1% chance of survival. He was born with cerebral palsy. My sister before him was also born with cerebral palsy and had a low chance of survival, but she did. She grew up to be just as stubborn as the rest. Anyway, when Donald passed away, my Dad came home from the hospital to tell the family that Donald had passed. My younger sister said, “Isn’t this a wonderful Christmas gift?” We all were stunned at what she had said and asked her how this could be a gift. She said, “We have a brother in Heaven.” Yes, they is the goal of all parents—to have children in heaven.
This is the goal. We are raising children for eternal life. This is not an easy thing in a fallen world. We live in a world with birth control. We want to prevent life because there are more important things that we want to define us. “My career give meaning to my life.” Your career does not define you. Our culture sends us messages that we need to attain new material goods to be a part of this world. Every couple of years we have to replace all our things because they are not new. It makes it very difficult to raise children in this environment.
How do you measure your own success? How do you measure your children’s success? Families are endlessly traveling from soccer, football, ballet. This is how they measure their own success. How good they are at these activities, or how involved they are. But why should we do these things? Why do we play a game—to play, because we enjoy playing it; why does one dance—for the joy of it; why speak another language—to speak to others; why do we have a job—to live. But these things should not be a measure of your success.
Know the goal. Raise the children to love God; to love thy neighbor. It’s a simple goal. It’s not easy to carry out.
God’s got a plan for mothers: seek Him and follow him. Motherhood is not pretty. It’s gritty. So I recommend you read the lives of the saints. I don’t mean the cute little nuggets about the lives of saints that give you some ultimate, beautiful, reality wrapped up in a nice package. That’s part of their lives. But I recommend you read full accounts of their lives where you learn about their hardships in detail. That is where we can find Divine inspiration.
One of my favorite phrases is “Pray as you can, not as you can’t.” You can’t pray like a monastic. Also, be consistent. One of the greatest keys to success is to be consistent. You know this from disciplining the children. One of the hardest things is to be consistent.
Do what works for your family. There are many ways to raise a holy family. Don’t try to do it someone else’s way because you see it working for them. It might not work for you.
Do you know what I hear a lot from mothers in confession? I was overwhelmed and lost it, I was angry, I was impatient, I’m not good enough. Quit beating yourselves up. This is not necessarily all sin. We’re going to have freak out moments.
Prayer, self-denial, works of mercy –these are trials I choose. But my crosses, these are trials that comes to me from God for my perfection. Life is going to hurt. The crosses you bear are not sin. They are for making you good. God did not put your crosses into your life because you sinned. Beating yourself up when bad stuff happens does no good.
God knows you are flawed and He still put your kids in your care. You can do this with God. Ask for Good counsel.