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alec vanderboom

My family hosted a college friend from Australia and her family last week. There were physical and spiritual challenges. Jon & I spent each night sleeping on the floor of the kid's room. Alex did avoid hitting & biting anyone not related to him by blood for an entire week.

This unusual occurrence was overshadowed by her husband's insistence, he is a music teacher with sensitive ears, that my children avoid all noise in the living room or in the car. The objected noises included humming, squeals of delight and random shuffling noises made from kicking feet against the carpet. Meanwhile, my friend finally disclosed that her hatred of the Catholic church stems from being baptized in the faith but not brought to Mass until age 16. She felt embarrassed not to know the words and never went back. So there was many opportunities to water my seeds of meekness during the week. After a few missed turns on the Capital Beltway on Saturday afternoon, I got them to Dulles Airport in their rental car with time to spare to make their connecting flight to L.A.

At 7 PM on Saturday, while the kids are jumping on the bed in the room that has been forbidden territory all week, Jon takes a call from my nervous friend. She misread the time of take-off. The family has missed the plane and can't leave for Australia again until Monday. They needed shelter for two more nights. I love my husband. Without missing a beat he says to a stranded family without a rental car, without a car seat, and that has recently been not so nice to him, "Of course you can stay here, we'll be right out to pick you up."

So we practiced hospitality for an additional seventy-two hours. It was way beyond what me, my kids, my husband and my tiny, colicky newborn could handle. But you know what? It was awesome. I prayed and prayed for grace from Our Lady.

She let me know that she had a special plans for this family. The husband, an Anglican, ended up taking home my "Devotion to Our Lady." He confided that is reading up on St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. Best of all, he announced that he was taking his wife and his one year old daughter to church again once they got home. My friend had all of these excuses, "it's to hard to take a young baby to church, etc." I sat in silence, holding little Maria, not sure what to say. Then I realized that I didn't have to say anything. Her husband was all decided that they needed to start going again. That's when I made this powerful realization. When you go to Mass- after a hard week as a hostess, and your husband handles a 4 year old, a 3 year old, and a newborn all by himself while you sing in the choir for the first time in two years- your actions matter.

As our beloved St. Francis of Assisi says "Preach the gospel aways, sometimes use words." I'm so thankful that my family had a chance to stretch the limits of our virtues this week. I'm excited that our home is noticeably Catholic-not just from the blessed crucifixes on our walls, but from our daily interactions as a family. And while it's uncomfortable to have friction with a former friend who knew me in my pre-Catholic, pre-parent days, that friction is also a marker of how far I've grown in faith in the three years since her last visit. I hope to grow even deeper in the faith by 2010.