I am a convert to the Catholic Church.
One of the things that first attracted me was the Church’s universality, both historical and geographical. I take the Church’s unbroken presence since the apostolic age and its world-wide ministry both to be strong evidences for its claim to be guided and protected by the Holy Spirit. I love the way that the Church has “baptized” cultures, using existing customs to present the Gospel in familiar ways to new peoples, and the way that it has fostered and protected real diversity of worship from country to country. We have surrounded our children with images of Christ from many different countries and times, showing them how much richer our understanding of Our Lord is because of the diversity of presentations.
But I recently learned that my love for the universality
of our Church ends when it impinges on my Sunday plans.
Every 4th of July our neighborhood has a parade. It’s a small event, spearheaded by one family, that consists of maybe 40 people walking down the street behind a “Happy 4th of July!!!” banner, to the tune of “Stars and Stripes Forever,” playing on a boom box in one of the banner carriers’ hands. The parade takes about ten minutes, and then we settle in the neighbor’s lawn to eat red, white, and blue popsicles and chat.
Our four children, five years and under, love it. They have not been to a “real” parade before, so they are very easily impressed. And, really, they should be. This parade gets everyone in our block out of our houses and into conversation… even us, who are not nearly as neighborly as we should be.
The parade always gets me thinking about community and neighborhoods and my failings with regards to both. But this year I had a conversation that drove this home for me in a new way.
With four pre-school aged children, it’s rare that I leave the house without receiving at least one comment from someone about our family size. The comments are almost always some version of, “My, you sure have your hands full, don’t you?” or “You must be very busy!” I nod, smile, move on, have never thought much about these comments, and have certainly come to expect them. But this year I got a new one: “You have four children? You poor, poor woman!”