Four years ago, an eloquent Catholic blogger wrote a post about getting chastised for having a large family while her four perfectly behaved boys waited patiently in line at Whole Foods. She prayed for her attacker, which was more than I would have done four years ago. Yet this well-written post ended with the basic complaint was "Why can't people be nice to those of us with large families?" Something like 72 people wrote in with comments echoing similar feelings.
I read that post as a young Catholic mother, with two young toddlers, and shook with fear. I'd already gotten numerous unsolicited comments "How perfect, one girl and one boy. Now you're done!" I didn't relish becoming more of a spectacle in the grocery store in the future as I cheerfully accepted God's generous gifts of more babies to our household.
Yesterday, my husband announced my pregnancy at his workplace. He received some very sweet and supportive comments. He also received some not so supportive comments.
It's the same story for each and every pregnancy after we received universal praise for conceiving baby number one.
The thing that is different this time, is me.
I don't yet relish the pokes and digs at my openness to life. I'm not leaping for joy in the grocery store line. All the same, a huge difference has occurred. I'm not shocked at suffering for my Catholic faith anymore.
The way I see it now, is if my beloved parish priest Father Willie stops by Whole Food to pick up some organic orange juice to mend his sore throat before Sunday's homily (it's probably a rare trip to Whole Foods given his small salary), he's open to all kinds of attack just by wearing his priest's collar. My beloved Dominican nuns, with their gorgous habits, were asked all manner of embarrassing sexual questions when they appeared on the Oprah show last week.
If our dear Priests and Sisters suffer snide comments every time they leave the parish chapel, why should we Catholic Moms and Dads be any different?
Just as a priest wears his collar, and a nun wears a habit, some of us parents, who were blessed by God with abundance off-spring, will wear our closely space, overwhelmingly active, children around our grocery carts.
Scripture tells that not only are we to bear scoffs meekly and humbly pray for our attackers, we're also to "leap for joy". If we suffer rejection from the world, it means we will have a great reward in heaven.
So this Lent, think about dropping your Saint Catherine's Wheel penance whip and sleeping on the floor like St. Martin of Pours. The cheerful acceptance of trials allowed by God are more valuable than any self-imposed act of penance.
This Lent resolve to take your ego-bruising social interactions on the chin like our big brother Jesus and our wonderful Mom, Mary.
Don't cry in the grocery line. Don't come up with a pity retort.
Instead, leap for joy. Do a little ballet jump. A bunny hop. An Irish Jig. Anything physical to show your great joy at having a chance to suffer for the faith.
At the very least, an unexpected Irish Jig in the grocery aisle will stun your accuser into silence and make all those "excessive" babies, who are currently pleading for gum and chocolate bars, laugh in surprise.