It was about 8:30 am on a Monday morning. I had taken a quick stop into the bathroom after doing my routine email check and coffee mug fill up at work. As I was washing my hands in the bathroom, I glanced up at the mirror and there it was: a great big smudge of oatmeal. I had been Charlie-d, again! (Charlie is our 1 year old son). Getting three tired children ready for school and childcare before I go to work in the morning is a three-ring circus show. I rarely have time to check myself before I leave the house. No matter how early I get up, we always seem to be running late. On top of that, leave it to children to make things that should not stain, become stain-able items. Such things as cheerios and animal crackers should be “safe” foods, but not for a one-year-old. So when I saw the stain this particular morning, one that reminded me of the old Tide laundry detergent commercials with the screaming stain, I tried with no avail to clean the stain off. When the stain didn’t wash off, I simply left the bathroom thinking to myself, “Just another day where my children left their mark on my life.”
Whether it is food, craft time, or play time outside, my shirt becomes a personal napkin. Over the years I have started to see these splotches as a badge of honor. Pope Francis challenges the priests and bishops of the Catholic Church to have the smell of the sheep in their ministry, so why shouldn’t parents be challenged in the same way? I look at priests and bishops wearing the Roman collars, monks and friars with their robes, and sisters with their habits, and it is easy for me to embrace the beauty of them outwardly sharing their vocations to the point of demonstrating them in their dress. In a sense, they are wearing their vocations. Their mission and purpose becomes a part of their attire, a physical reminder that their life is not their own. For years, and still to this day, I admire that stark reminder and the courage it takes to stand apart. I admire that in their dress they are pointing others to a deeper reality, and reminding others that they are laying down their life for something greater. Yet, as I was walking out of the bathroom this particular morning, I was reminded that I, too, am demonstrating my vocation in what I was wearing.
Parents, we wear our vocations too. With smudged cheerios, oatmeal, milk, spit-up, mud, or paint, we take on the mess of our sheep, the souls we are entrusted to pastor: our children. More to it, with the faded and stained clothes we wear, the van full of scratches from our children’s “artwork” (a post for another day), the house with crayon murals on the walls, and toys scattered all over the floor; our lives, our clothes, and our houses point others (and ourselves) to see the purpose of our lives – our family. My family is my path to heaven; my path to holiness. Sure, it might be nice to day dream about other vocations and other lifestyles, but in reality, each vocation is a uniquely beautiful mess that is made specifically for the world. No one else is called to what I am called to! When others mention to me that they could never do what St. Teresa of Calcutta or St. Pope John Paul II did, my remark is, “good, because you don’t have to.” Your vocation is what you are called to. Do what is right in front of you, in this moment. Moms and dads, wear your stained clothes and drive your scratched up and beat-up cars with pride. You are a living sign of love and sacrifice, a living sign of God’s love to the world!
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
~St. Teresa of Calcutta