Samantha Stephenson shares how she learned that prayer doesn’t mean being perfect. Far from it.
I forgot the bobby pins. I cringe as I curse internally and double-back to the holy water font for a double dip of mercy. Women who wear veils aren’t supposed to curse, right?
Women who wear veils are probably also supposed to arrive on time for Mass and have thought about what to pack in the Mass bag more than 37 seconds before leaving the house, too.
Women who wear veils are supposed to have confessed before Sunday rolls around, not begin confession with the vague but accurate, “It’s been … a while since my last confession.”
Women who wear veils check their hemline before leaving the house so they don’t arrive at Mass before realizing that their pregnant bellies have raised the hemline of their skirt so high it could be confused with a skirt out of the closet of Britney Spears circa 1998.
Women who were veils are also supposed to pay attention to the homily, pray reverently, and have enough humility to wear the veil without reflecting on what kind of woman they might be perceived as.
I’m reminding myself of these very facts as the forgotten bobby pins come back to haunt me. I feel my veil slip over my face just before my 2-year-old tugs it off.
Oh boy, I sigh. We’ve discovered a new game.
Some remnant of my mischievous pre-mother spirit rises within me: if you can’t beat them, join them.
Before I know it, I am engaged in a game of peek-a-boo and my son’s laughs echo all the way to the large wooden beams of the ceiling.
And before my inner critic can shame me with another lecture on what women who wear veils shouldn’t do, I’m swept away by the image of another Woman who wore a veil.
She’s looking at me, and her face isn’t somber. Her finger isn’t wagging, and her spirit isn’t somber. It’s playful.
Her gaze returns to her own laughing child, his chubby hand raising her veil between their eyes. The love between them is palpable. Up and down the veil goes, and with it my world shifts.
Suddenly, it doesn’t matter what all the women who were veils do or don’t do.
Just the one.
When I come across the photo, it looks peaceful. I see what my husband saw when he clandestinely snapped the shot on his iPhone: my children are gathered around me and I’m smiling. The photo doesn’t show the sweat running down my back from chasing them around the gym-turned-temporary Mass space. It doesn’t show my heart thudding with anxiety as I try to keep them around me, to prevent them from darting up the stairs or out the door. A photo might speak a thousand words, but I’m grateful this one says nothing of my experience that day.
Instead, this photo tells a different story. No longer is this moment a brief respite from the chaos of Mass in a gym on a hundred-degree evening. When I come across it later and I see myself veiled, surrounded by my children, it shifts my focus. The ego of the moment evaporates, and I’m left with a renewed sense of purpose. Like Mary, I am keeper of these souls for a brief moment before they return to their Maker.
Motherhood is not primarily about satisfying my desires, but His. No matter the transient chaos, fleeting joys, or passing sorrows, we’ve brought them where they belong.
They are in their Father’s house—even if today, their Father makes His home in a gym.
It’s not the house of a judge or a headmaster. We aren’t here to be weighed and measured. We are here because this, more than any place else on earth, is where we belong.
Copyright 2022 Samantha Stephenson
Images: copyright 2022 Samantha Stephenson, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Samantha Stephenson is a Catholic wife and homeschooling mama of four, host of the podcasts “Brave New Us” and “Mama Prays,” and author of Reclaiming Motherhood from a Culture Gone Mad. Follow her blog at MamaPrays.com or sign up for her newsletter at FaithandBioethics.com to receive the latest updates on medical research, technology, and culture.