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alec vanderboom

Last night I talked to my sister-in-law about the problems of not fitting into the world. Her 11 year old son made the State Finals for Baseball. They lost in one of those heart-breaking, can only happen to an elementary kid type of way. The kids took it hard. The adults took it harder. There was lots of yelling at officials, and scoreboards and other kid's batting averages. There was not much modeling of "losing with grace."

"It's so hard," my sister said. "You try to tell your kids to be a good loser and there are your friends undermining that lesson. Tom (her husband) and I have a different perspective because we are teachers. We're not better than our friends. You can't judge and be a snob. You can't say anything because these are your friends and you want your son to be accepted and to have friends . . ."

I'm not a teacher (at least not a paid one) and I don't have kids on sports teams. Yet I know the uncomfortable feelings of having your ethics rub uncomfortably against the crowd.

We're Catholics. We're supposed to have different ethics than the world. We're supposed to have different goals and different standards than most of our non-Catholic friends, even if they are "good people", good friends, good neighbors, good co-workers and good parents.

Sometimes that difference is minor, we might just cross ourselves and say a Hail Mary before a big soccer match while our friends will just say an Our Father, or no prayer at all. Sometimes it's major, like telling our kids that they can't jump on the bandwagon of tearing down the winning team.

But we are supposed to be different. We are supposed to be Yeast. The laity is the one charged with the task of transforming the world to more closely match life in the Kingdom of Heaven. That happens everywhere, all of the time, in ordinary space and in ordinary time.

I'm a shy person by nature. Rubbing the crowd the wrong way doesn't come easily to me.

That's why I go to Daily Mass. I'm not some together saint who loves to drag sleepy, squirmy babies to church at 6:30 AM. I'm a deeply flawed girl who falls down on the mothering job every single day. I could not get through the multiple car-seat buckles, and the potty-training accidents, and the trying to enforce reasonable dietary rules and TV time restrictions, without my faith. For me, the best way to insure that my hand stays firmly on the handrail of my Catholic faith is to start each day eating Jesus.

I realized talking to my sister, in those time of mental conversations I have so often with myself, that my shelter is my church. Each morning, I get to immerse myself in a totally loving, supportive environment. My babies elicit smiles there instead of "boy you have your hand full!" My priest blesses me, encourages me to do better and offers confession at 7:15 for times that I fail. My parishioners encourage me in holiness, offer sacramentals, and pray for me when I'm in trouble. Each morning, I get to start my day immersed in this comfortable bubble of safety.

That bubble of love in my church helps me deal with a sometimes hostile world. If the world starts to tear at my peace, I just slip back into the bubble again. I drink in the Eucharist, I do Adoration, I talk to a choir friend, I pray the rosary, I read Scripture and I hang out on a Catholic website. I can do one of those things or many of those things. I carry my "safety" bubble with me at all times.

I don't have to worry that the world is not always kind or righteous or a good model for my kids. My kids and I have a safe home, our Mother Church. Our home keeps us safe. Our home makes us strong. Our home helps us carry out our job to be the 'leaven' in the world.