Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Santa in Our Backpacks

I was reading one of my favorite blogs yesterday, I Have to Sit Down. Simcha always makes me laugh, always makes me think. We may not always see eye to eye on things, but..... Well... I really don't care!

And that is exactly what her post yesterday got me thinking about. Though she ended up in humorous exasperation at those people who are hyper about the politically-correct-gender thing, she prefaced her main point (Or was that her main point? Hmmm...) with an observation that got my wheels turning even more.

Why are we, women in particular, so afraid to offend one another by being different from one another?

Americans, Catholics, Parents, Homeschoolers ~ no matter what subset banner we wave over our heads, we are not all the same. It's easy to want to think that, because we belong to this very exclusive group of "Catholic-Homeschool-parent," or, even (Gasp!) "Traditional-Catholic-Homeschool-parent" we are going to be like-minded in everything and be able to carry on deep, meaningful discussions of life and philosophy and child-rearing without ever disagreeing.

But, good grief, of course we're going to disagree! Whaddya expect? With millions of combinations of temperaments, experiences, challenges, and God-given gifts and insights, how could we all be at the same place on the Path at the same time?

Now, do I proudly defend the path I've chosen as the correct path? Of course I do! If I didn't think it was the right path, I wouldn't be on it!

Will I try to do what I can to help those I think are straying off the upward path? I have an obligation to! But, I better be doggone careful I'm really helping them up and not pushing them off! It's a very tricky thing, and an endeavor not to be taken lightly. I believe the best help I can give anyone is prayer and good example. St. Francis of Assissi said, "Always preach the Gospel, and, if necessary, use words." My evangelization, due to my station in life, is a subtle one. I have ten souls (twelve, counting my husband and myself) that I'm directly responsible for, and I lecture them plenty, but the rest of the world, I've given into the Blessed Mother's capable hands.

Here's the sore point...

What do you do about those people who are on a different place in the Path than we are, who become offended by our lifestyle choices? Some people assume that because we do this, we must condemn that. So: if we unschool, we look down our noses at structured homeschoolers and most certainly conventional schoolers; if we prefer dresses, we look upon "pants-wearers" as unworthy; if we only give our children homemade, eco-friendly toys, we assume plastic-toy-parents are not our equals.

Pish posh!

To think this way scorns charity. And, while the word "tolerance" has evolved into a liberal excuse for "anything goes," the original definition which includes the concepts of mercy and understanding still applies to all of us. Self-righteous judgment doesn't save souls.

And, let's talk about this Path. What really constitutes a step off it, and what is merely a "divergence" due to someone's differing choice of tools to scale it ~ often tools, God has handed to us due to our differing needs?

If you do not adhere to the dogmatic teachings of the Catholic Church, you're off it. If you're in mortal sin, you're off it. Do I have to be extremely careful about judging either of these? Oh, man, do I! But, I have to do it, if for no other reason, than to properly instruct my children about bad examples. And I also teach them that God alone judges the person!

What about those people who aren't off the path,
but are getting awfully close to the edge?

Straying into habits, places or company of temptation pulls you close to the precipice and is a danger we have to avoid and teach our children to avoid. Some of these edges have no guardrails, particular those temptations against purity. The problem here, though, is that we may disagree on what are temptations and how far we need to go to avoid them. Swing too wide and you fall off on the pride side! Where you always end up losing that all important walking stick, charity...

And, of course, all the virtues are our hiking implements; the heavenly court supplies our guides; tradition our compass; and sacrifice...

Sacrifice is the load we carry on our backs: the food, the water, the bedroll that we'll need as we go. It's also got the rope we'll need for getting over the really hard places. You may think you can get up without this pack, but you'll find you'll be better off if you take it with you. You're bound to be picking up plenty of stuff along the way whether you like it or not, and you'll need a good place to put it all.

What do you carry in your pack?

One of the causes for disagreement among Catholics is the choice of what to carry in our packs. Sometimes we're tempted to scoff at those who don't choose the same sacrifices as we do. We think they're missing out on something. Silly. We forget that God is the one who does most of the packing of this bag, and I think He sometimes smiles at the unnecessary things we stow in there ourselves, when He's already got it covered. The Church tells us what's necessary; God puts in a pick and shovel sometimes if He knows we'll need them. And He loves it when we lend out things to others from our own packs.

But, regardless, I think He likes our attempts, especially when we keep them to ourselves and don't brag about them. And when we trust Him to take care of the choices and needs of His other children, especially as regards the sacrifice thing.

A lot of the choices that cause consternation among Catholics fall here. As you probably know ~ and, please don't misconstrue this as bragging, but in the way of an example only ~ our family doesn't go trick or treating on Halloween. This is something we chose to give up. It actually is not a heavy burden at all, but we hope it may help us somewhere on the path.

What you don't know about us...

... and I've been loathe to tell because it is a divergence that I'm afraid will cause, um, offense... What you don't know (Hold onto your hat and cover your children's eyes if they're reading over your shoulder!) is that we don't do Santa Claus at our house, either!

There. I've said it. It actually comes as a strange relief...

Nope. Haven't done S.C. since our oldest was about 4 years old. It's something we gave up looking for something that might help us better down the road. Do we believe everyone should make this decision? Only if God calls you to it. It may not be something He needs you to do. How on earth can I know that? I only know what we needed to do. And we haven't regretted it an instant. In fact, it really hasn't been a big deal at all. We have a custom-rich Christmas, full of presents and good cheer. All the presents just have a loved one's name next to "from."

We truly think it's great if Santa comes to your house; doesn't offend us in the least. But, um, look out if my five year old gets to talking to your five-year-old because she truly hasn't a clue about subtlety and tact and letting sleeping dogs lie... And she never backs down. Ever.

So, now that you all know our "little secret," I can explain our family Christmas customs and they'll make better sense to you. And you won't mind, will you?

Having Santy Clause in our pack may make it look oddly large and lumpy, but he's actually really light. Like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloon.

Who knows but that the helium might come in handy at some point...If nothing else, we can amuse ourselves by sucking it in so we can sing the hiking song like Donald Duck.

I hope that doesn't offend anybody...


GrandmaK said...

What a profound way of looking at the world...When my oldest son, the one born on my birthday, chose to leave the Church and join the evangelical movement I blamed myself. (Shouldn't he believe as I do? Follow my Lead?) Well, what I failed to realize is that God made him UNIQUE and not like me....For a very good reason. He is God and I am not. David has married a lovely young lady who home schools their 4 boys. And they are a Holy Family. It has been a difficult task for me to NOT judge. But the word LOVE is always present if I allow it to be, and my pain and my need to be judgmental seems to abate. I want them ALL to come HOME to Christ as know and love him, but I have come to the realization that it is not my JOB to bring them home, but to pray for their return. And if they don't? Well, "The Father knows best." God bless you!! And Thanks be to God for your gifts and talents...

Lisa said...

Oh, GrandmaK! Isn't it good to know that God has the answers that we can't find? How many years did St. Monica pray for her son?? That's the best cure! Praying for wanderers in our extended family, too!

wifeofraulito said...

What a relief it is to know that we're not the only ones who don't do SC! We do celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6th, but the kids know that Mom & Dad fill the stockings. My Our Lord richly bless you and yours!

SuzyQ said...

I found myself nodding along to the whole of this post!
I totally agree.
Differences of opinion should never become more important than charity.
Love is the greatest commandment and should always come first, before, during and after any disagreements we, as christians, might have with one another.
Oh, and as for Santa, I'm with you on that one too:0)
I went out to buy Christmas cards yesterday and it was the first year that I could not find one card with a nativity scene on it. Only Santas' and presents and snowmen etc...
It almost made me cry. I'm sure the real Saint Nick would be utterly dismayed at the way his image is being used.
Sorry for the book:) This was a great post!

Lisa said...

Blessings to you, too, Mrs. Raulito! &:o) I'm afraid there aren't many of us who've come to this conclusion, but we're a merry company! I think the misconception is that we're a bunch of "humbugs!"

Lisa said...

Thanks, Suzy! It's always so good to "see" you! &:o) Don't you wish everyone could take their convictions and gift wrap them in charity? &:o' I have the same hunt every year for pious Christmas cards. I usually end up ordering them from Leaflet or something. I had some already this year, and, go figure, they're yet to be found, packed up somewhere! (I love books, btw!)

Alexandra said...

I really like this post. It reminds me a bit of the difference between discernment and judgement.

Discernment comes from the Holy Spirit, the voice of God to you personally when you are still. Judgement is God's domain. We all have different things to discern in our lives within the bounds of our faith.

Mother Angelica(EWTN) talks a bit about this in her book, Little Book of Life Lessons.

I love your blog..been enjoying it as a lurker. :)