Life can be really strange sometimes. As I've mentioned in earlier posts my mother died a few years ago due to addictions and self-destructive habits. I have also said that at the end of her life she wished that she had made better, more loving choices when she was younger. One of her greatest sorrows was that she didn't appreciate us kids when she had the chance. She clearly saw that she was the cause of much of our unhappiness and self-destructive behaviors. But it was too late; years of being cruel to her children had taken their toll. Her children, for the most part, would not hear her. Then, one day and quite suddenly, she died.
Fast forward a year and a half and I am a mother of an infant and am going through the normal marital problems of dealing with a growing family. I remember clearly that my son was sleeping and my husband was still at work. I was at the sink washing dishes thinking bitter thoughts when I suddenly felt my mother's arms around me. I began to cry. Then I heard her voice as clearly as she was in the room: "Don't go there! I taught you to think this way and I destroyed my marriage and my children. Please, for the good of us both, be grateful for the goodness of God and turn to Him instead." Pretty strange, huh?
Insights into the Vision Which Will Lead to the Theology of Purgatory and Redemption
I do not attempt to define my experience in the kitchen that evening but it did, in its own small way, change my life. Instead of dwelling on what my mother had done during her life I focused on what she wished for me now. (I firmly believe that at the moment of her death my mother was released from her diseased body and was finally free to love us as purely as she had always wanted to. What my mother wants for me now is to have a loving relationship with my husband and children and to work towards heaven by having God the center of my life.)
As you can imagine this takes a bit of practice. It's difficult when times are hard to become less ego-centric. Generally we are trained to ask "what's in it for me?". So I started asking different questions. One such question is: "What do I lose by being more loving to my husband when he upsets me instead of having to be right right now?" Sometimes being loving means standing up for yourself. Sometimes it means letting it go for the moment. Sometimes you realize that what upset you didn't really matter that much. But it never means being nasty or spiteful. Ever. It's taken a while but this has worked really well for us. My husband and children know that now matter how angry I get that I am willing to work through things. It gives them a sense of peace and protection. Allowing love to enter into a situation is allowing God into a situation. Miracles do happen.
Now let me go back to what my mother said about being more loving "for the good of us both". I have been thinking about this statement for years. This statement only makes sense if, through the will of God, we are still in a relationship that death could not overcome. I believe that the love we have for one another still binds us and gives us strength for our journeys. It means that somehow we need each other for our mutual salvation. Catholics believe that souls in purgatory cannot pray for themselves and rely on the living to aid them with prayers, masses said for them, acts of charity, and mortifications. Many souls in purgatory (though not all) can and do pray for the living. Thus my belief that my prayers for my mother have aided her through purgatory and her prayers for me have allowed her to intercede for me at a critical moment in my life is theologically correct.
If there is a main focus to my theology as a mother it is to allow God to enter into your life wherever you and and to have CARITAS, the love of God that is the inspiration of all charitable thoughts and actions, to be the center of your life. This is because as moms we are called to the daunting task of caring for God's precious, helpless souls. We might not, due to our unique circumstances, be able to carry out our Catholic obligations in the traditional way. This does not excuse us from our obligations but instead invites us to do so creatively.
I have had masses said for my mother. I pray for her. I light votives (candles) for her at church and when I'm visiting holy shrines. When I get the time I say rosaries for her. I do not fast because I believe that while I have young children my body isn't my own and needs care so that I can care for them. I do abstain from meat on Fridays though. But upon reflection I have given up my "right" to bitterness and "being right". Out of love for my mother I have taken her advice and trusted God more. I have become more grateful. I believe that by actively shedding the bad habits my mother taught me that I have advanced out mutual salvation. I have become less of a victim of my childhood and am being transformed into the woman God wants me to be.
I love you, mom. Ora pro me. (Pray for me.)