I was on my way out this evening. Alone. My first evening out with no kids in 14 months. Margaret was asleep and Eric has built up a strong track record the last couple of weeks getting her back to sleep peacefully at that 10:00 waking. I was about five minutes from my destination when the cell phone rang. Margaret was awake and inconsolable. I came back home. Part of me, really, wanted to cry. I was headed to a fantastic book group with a great group of Catholic women and we were planning to discuss one of my absolute favorite books, Brideshead Revisited. At least the promise of the book group gave me a good excuse to read this for the third time. But the other part of me felt good coming back home and snuggling in with my traumatized daughter. I don't know quite why she is so very attached to me but she is. I'm her mother and she wants her mother and I really adore this little girl. I'm even starting to feel sad at how fast she's growing up. There won't be too many more snuggly nights in the grand scheme of things.
We've had quite a rough start to Advent. I haven't written in a few days because I couldn't figure out what and how to write. Sorry to be vague. Please pray for our family and our parish. In the meantime, I'm going on retreat!
Before I had kids I was very blessed to be able to make an annual retreat. I was able to go twice to a house of cloistered nuns in the city. It was completely wonderful and I really miss those sisters. The beauty of a two or three day individual retreat is the descent into silence. You arrive at this house of silence and its all very novel and enchanting. Maybe the whole first day is like this. Then the second day arrives and you are still alone and it is still silent (these particular sisters did pray in the chapel seven times a day and had Mass, but still). Sometime late in that second day you crash and I think I think I might have cried once or twice at that point. Then you get over it and embrace the silence and then the blessings start to flow. Then the retreat ends and you need to go back to the noisy world outside. But that occasional descent into silence is so valuable.
That sort of retreat is impossible for most parents. I certainly can't leave Margaret and I'm not sure I want to leave Joseph for three days. I make a Holy Hour every week but it's all too short. This year I felt like I really needed something approximating a retreat. Eric and I talked about it and I asked for ideas at 4Real and someone suggested to me a novena of Holy Hours.
A novena, for my non-Catholic readers, is nine days of prayer for a particular intention or to cultivate a particular devotion. The original novena was the nine days prayer of the Apostles between Ascension and Pentecost. You can find a novena for almost any saint, now, and traditionally, a novena is said for the nine days preceding the feast day of the saint you are honoring. Many families are saying a novena now to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (feast day this Saturday). I will be making my novena of holy hours for Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mary, under this title, has been very good to our family. Every time we have had a grave request we have said a 54 Day Novena (which is just six novenas in a row) to Our Lady of Guadalupe. We intended to start this 27 days before the feast for Eric's job hunt but, ironically, he was away at interviews and we forgot. In place of that we are praying the "novena" to St. Andrew until Christmas fifteen times a day. I will follow the custom of the other 4Real bloggers and put the prayer in my sidebar. It is quite beautiful and makes for a lovely Advent devotion even if you don't have a special petition on your heart.
Anyway, Our Lady of Guadalupe has given us a couple of children and a couple of good jobs so far, so I wanted to honor her in my retreat. The Madonna House near our parish is allowing me to use their chapel for one hour each evening starting tomorrow for an hour of silence and prayer. It is my hope that doing this nightly for nine nights will help me approach that descent into silence that I so miss. I don't have a particular plan for the time. I will take my journal, as usual, to help focus my prayer and I am really looking forward to it.
I wanted to do something for all the other 23 hours of my day to remind me that I am "on retreat." Fasting came to mind immediately but that isn't really a workable option. I would just be punishing my family. I need to eat about six times a day just to function (I am still providing almost all the nourishment for a certain hungry little girl). I've decided to do something much more difficult: fast from the computer. I still need to use my e-mail for a bit of household business, but no blogs, no forums. I think this sort of a fast will really promote the peaceful, reflective, family-centered atmosphere I'm trying to create this Advent.
So, remember me in your prayers these nine days. I certainly intend to offer some prayer time for my friends, those I know in person, and those who have been a source of encouragement to me in the online community.
A blessed Advent to you all!