Virgin Mary breastfeeding Jesus

Virgin Mary breastfeeding Jesus
Nursing Madonna (wikimedia commons)

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Mother's List of Clever After-Church Comebacks


As Catholics, we are called to be pro-life not just till birth, but from fertilization to natural death. Do comments on a child/ baby’s presence being unwanted, or a child’s ‘bad’ behavior, or- horror of horrors- a mother’s fourth/ fifth/ sixth/ tenth pregnancy fit in with our call to build up the Culture of Life?

Definitely not.

The saddest place for a mother to receive critical comments is in Church, or by Church officials. But it happens. Many Catholics believe that their own ‘right’ to peace and quiet supersedes a child’s right to be present and partake of the Liturgy of the Church. But this is not so. Imagine if you will an elderly individual, or a handicapped individual who makes strange or loud noises during a liturgical service (public rosary, Stations of the Cross, Mass) due to handicap or senility. Now, imagine a priest or layperson approaching that person’s caregiver after Mass and making comments on how he/ she couldn’t control his or her patient during the service. That wouldn’t be ok. It would be rude and inappropriate. We as a people generally recognize the rights of those with handicaps or other inabilities to control impulses to participate in the life of the Church.

(Worst and strangest is when mothers receive looks and comments simply because her child/ children are present, regardless of their ‘good’ behavior. Or when she is made to feel uncomfortable if her child is discreetly nursing in, say, a church pew because the other lay person/ sister/ priest is uncomfortable with God’s design for the sustenance of our species….)

It may be distracting to our prayer, but most people aren’t fuming the whole Mass over how an elderly person/ handicapped person has no right to be ‘ruining’ the service.

But when it comes to babies and children, who as baptized members of the People of God have JUST AS MUCH RIGHT AS ANYONE TO BE PRESENT AT THE LITURGY, many Catholics, including priests, sisters, and lay ministers, have a breakdown in reasonable thinking. They simply think, that child is ‘misbehaving’ (when in fact, that child is just behaving in a child-like way) and ought to be ‘disciplined’ or ‘made to behave’. Because, let’s face it, sometimes our children just can’t sit through Mass. Or they think that a mother is being obscene by nursing in the church, when this is emphatically not the case.

Many families believe that the best and quickest way to teach appropriate Mass behavior is to take the child regularly. (Individuals who have problems with discreet nursing in church, well, there is no quick fix for this sad aberration in our culture.)

The bottom line is only parents can make those decisions; it is not the right of others to decide how a parent should parent. Let me ask you, does it build up the Culture of Life to make parents feel bad over something their child did in Mass?

I say no. Making children feel unwelcome via comments to their parents breaks down the Culture of Life. So when I get a comment on this subject, I feel I am doing what St. Paul says ‘correcting in fraternal charity.’ And the comment can be given in a gentle tone of voice, “Father/ Sister/ friend, that comment makes me feel unwelcome. We are called to be prolife not just till birth. Being prolife also means being pro-child. Babies turn into children, who turn in to adults. Life needs to be supported at every stage by our community.” Now, if you actually make this speech, I guarantee you that you will NEVER be bothered by callous comments from that person again, and you will likely save other parents from such comments, too. That person will likely fumble and mumble, blush, and get away as quickly as possible.

Some other charitable responses to comments on children’s or babies’ behavior, or just their PRESENCE if it is unwanted:

“We are pro-life till birth, and after birth, too. Why ask parents to be open to life and then imply they ought to leave their (babies/ children) at home?”

“If babies and children are welcomed and appreciated at Church functions, maybe they will grow up to be teens and young adults who feel at home in the Church.”

Are unwelcoming comments towards parents and their babies and children a major factor in many mothers’ reluctance to embrace the mother-baby togetherness required to make eco-breastfeeding work? I think so.

Every person has God-given rights. And one can learn to assert those rights in a gentle but firm, Christian and charitable way. When a mother has his or her feelings hurt by wayward comments, often she just keeps her words to herself. This is fine if that’s how she feels comfortable. But many of us moms have been practicing mother-baby (and then mother-child) togetherness for years and years- decades even- and we get tired of people being rude to us, and some of us feel that by making ‘clever’ but thoughtful, and never rude, responses, that we are really serving parentkind by letting others know that It is not ok, not Christian, to be rude about children, those precious flowers of God’s love.

Maureen Armendariz writes regularly at www.breadwithhoney.blogspot.com

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Reflections on This Past Lent from an Ecologically Breastfeeding Mother

This Lent for me was revelatory... I was being healed of self-righteousness which started very well with Ash Wednesday having chocolate and cappucinos. I definitely felt God's grace rather than being proud of any moral effort on my part at starting a Lentan fast.... it was one of those days that was stressful so fasting went out the window!.

Then the whole of Lent I felt this brokenness and a kind of taunting just like Jesus in the desert, this voice in my head saying that if everything is all about God's grace then why eco-breastfeed?...sure won't God fix it all in the end and give back the years the locusts have eaten just like He had with me? (as I wasn't eco-breastfed and I feel so blessed now because of His Grace.)

Of course I kept going... breastfeeding my daughter as normal and being the best mother I could be each day, failing and succeeding, failing and succeeding... but having this darkness taunting me...

Eventually the first evening of Holy Week it occurred to me to share my thoughts with my husband, knowing intuitively that he would  most likely know how to answer me with the  truth and he hit it right back at me, just like David slinging the pebble at Goliath's forehead.

"Sure isn't faith without works dead honey?" he said. "That's it, of course!" I said. So Yes it is all about grace, but when you are given the grace to have your ears opened and  it dawns on you that eco-breastfeeding is God's amazing, beautiful, awesome plan for mothers and babies and you realise how it affects all of civilisation, then you just go wow! How can you NOT follow His plan? 

What kept ringing in my ears Holy Week was
"Blessed are we (eco-bf mothers and all forms akin to that) that hear the Word of God (God's plan for motherhood) and keep it (try by God's grace to be the mother God is calling us to be)"....it is worth all the challenges and ups and downs. May we continue to pray for each other in this adventure of nursing and post-nursing motherhood.

Love in Christ
Judith