Friday, April 29, 2011

A Mother's Faith: An Interview with Colleen

I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me.
They have clung to me all my life.
~Abraham Lincoln

This is the fifth in a series of interviews on faith and motherhood. My goal is to interview fellow mothers/bloggers of different faiths and have a little window into each of their lives...and to see in the end, how we are all trying to achieve the same prepare faithful, loving, compassionate, children to go out into the world and lead productive, purposeful, meaningful lives.

We are all more similar than we are different.

Different doctrines, different traditions, different rituals, different beliefs, but our fears, our love for our families, and our hopes for our children are all so alike.

Here is an interview with Colleen, a Catholic mother to four, soon to be five.

What are the strongest values and beliefs of the Catholic religion?
The Apostle’s Creed is a prayer that states our beliefs as Catholics:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord, 
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; 
He ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
 I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. 
We have such beautiful traditions and can actually trace the beginning of our Church back to Jesus Christ!  How amazing is that? 
I think being a Catholic means living a moral life (following the Ten Commandments), trying to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and using the gifts and talents we have been given to help others.

What are your family's daily and/or weekly worship/prayer rituals?
 We attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, which is obligatory.  However, since we believe the Eucharist is the true body and blood of Christ, we try and go to daily Mass as much as possible.  When I was a stay-at-home mom, this was much more do-able!  As for daily prayer, we just try and incorporate it whenever we can.   I am sure we could use a lot of improvement in this area.  But I say morning prayers in the car with the kids on the way to school, we say grace before every meal, and we say prayers at night before bed.  We try to either say a Rosary or a Chaplet of Divine Mercy each night as a family.  We love that motto: “The family that prays together stays together!”


What are the most important concepts of the Catholic religion that you wish to teach your children?
I want them to know that God created them to love, serve, and honor Him in this world in order to be united with Him in the next.  Truly, if all my children can one day enter Heaven for all eternity, I would be a very happy and successful mom!

Will you make decisions on schooling for your children based on religious values?
YES!  We already have all four children in a wonderful, small, Catholic school that goes from preschool through 8th grade.  My husband is the Department Chair of Theology at our Catholic high school, and so our children will attend Catholic high school as well.  Education is very important to us, but what does it matter to gain knowledge if you lose your faith?  We want the best for our children, and for us that means a Catholic education.  We do whatever it takes to be able to afford this gift to our kids.

Food and faith are so tied together...what are some culinary traditions?
 I wish I could say that I’m one of those moms who plan meals around feast days, but I’m not that put-together!  We definitely fast during Lent, and give up some of our favorite foods during Lent and Advent in preparation for Jesus’ Resurrection and Birth, respectively.  And of course we feast on all the major holidays.  Most of our family time occurs when we are gathered around the table or preparing food in the kitchen, so we make the most of it.

What are the most common misconceptions that many people have when it comes to your religious/beliefs/appearance?  Have you ever been offended or dismissed by others because of your faith?
 With the exception of ashes on our forehead on Ash Wednesday, Catholics look like everybody else.  It’s how we live our lives that should set us apart.  I think for me, the most common misconception people have about my faith is that we are all holy-rollers who look down on people of other religions.  We are supposed to model our lives after Jesus Christ, who would never look down on anyone.  In fact, He loved to party with the sinners.  Ok, maybe not party, but you get my point J.  We are human and flawed like everyone else, but like the saints, we need to keep striving for Heaven in our daily actions.  It ain’t easy, but will be so very worth it in the next life!
I think I have been most offended by the remarks about how Catholics view sex.  Many people think the Church is against sex.  Not the case!  The Church is very much in favor of sex, as long as it is done in the way God intended, which is:  1) In marriage 2) Prolific and unitive.  Those are the only rules! 
    People assume that if you have a large family, you must be a poor Catholic who doesn’t know any better in the matters of birth control.  It’s not that we don’t know about artificial birth control, it’s that we cannot use it (hence the prolific clause).  We are allowed to use Natural Family Planning to space out our children if we have a serious reason to do so.  That serious reason is a decision made by the couple, in prayerful conversations with God.  And as for the unitive clause, that means that the action must be a loving, unifying act (no conception in a lab, no forced sex, etc.)  I think these rules are set up to allow us to be completely free and happy, and feel sad that people think they are too strict or hard to follow.

Have you ever questioned your faith?
 Growing up, I never questioned the Catholic faith.  Any questions I would have that I couldn’t quite answer fully, I would just tell myself that I would ask God if and when I get to Heaven.  I had a very simple faith.  My husband, however, loved to play devil’s advocate in questioning his faith, and now he can answer any question his students throw at him, which is wonderful!  As I’ve gotten older, I enjoy reading more and more about apologetics so that I too will be able to answer people’s questions about the faith.

Have you ever had a profound spiritual moment that has stayed with you forever?
 When I was sixteen, I entered an essay contest to win a trip to see the Pope when he came to New York.  It was a national contest, and I was one of sixteen winners!  Seeing Pope John Paul and meeting the other contest winners, all “normal” high school students who had a strong love for their faith, really made me realize I wanted to go to a college where there were more people like that.  I visited Franciscan University of Steubenville that same year, fell in love (with the school first, and then my husband – whom I met there) and continued to be challenged and grow in my faith.  I could have gone to more “prestigious” schools, as academics came easy to me, but knew growing in my faith and education was more important than education alone.  When I studied abroad in college, I was able to see the Pope two more times, and vowed to name my first-born son John-Paul, which we did!

Do you see your spiritual beliefs playing a large part in your marriage?
 Oh my yes!  We rely on each other only almost as much as we rely on God.  We believe that we should love God first, our spouse second, and our children third.  We received a poem on our wedding day that reads something like: “A successful marriage takes not two, but three.”

What is the single most difficult struggles you have overcome and how did your faith play a part in bringing you peace?
We have been so blessed, and have not had many family tragedies.  For us, it seems that our financial affairs are what cause me the most stress.  But being a Catholic means fully trusting in God’s Divine Providence.  That means believing that He will always take care of us if we do the right thing.  It may not be in the way we want, but it will be in the way we need.

What is your favorite spiritual quote when it comes to inspirational mothering?
I have two, the first being from Mother Theresa: "How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers."
And the second is from Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty: “The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral -- a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's body.... The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God's creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other human creature. God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation.... What on God's earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother.”


  1. So wonderful! What a beautiful family.

  2. I so love that comment from Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty. I am a Catholic Mum from New Zealand and both my husband and I wonder at the path that we are journeying on. We have always had enough even in trying times - things have happened to get us through. I only hope I am setting enough of an example for my children - I am the only one of five siblings in my family still practising my faith. Thanks for expressing your faith so well.

  3. Love this!! What an awesome and in-depth interview. Colleen - you look fantastic in those pictures. The Easter ones are great and the one out on the the water is beautiful!!!

  4. The last quote is absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Wow, if only there could be more mothers like this.
    I've had many Catholic friends, but none were so devout. If all in the world would just live their religion, what a better place this world would be.
    Colleen is truly an inspiration.
    It's funny, I recently did a post on successful marriage and our views are exactly the same.
    Wonderful post.

  6. Thank you for doing this series, I really needed to hear from a good Catholic Mother today :)

  7. thank you for sharing a beautiful faithfilled family.

    Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam
    For the Greater Glory of God

  8. What a beautiful, faith-filled Catholic family!

  9. I love that you do these...just like you say, we are all more alike than different.

  10. What a wonderful interview! Thanks for sharing this insight into Colleen. She is a wonderful mother and wife. I'm glad to know her. There are many misconceptions about Catholicism; Colleen touched on a couple of them. What I often answer questions about is our tradition of honoring Mary and the Saints. We do NOT worship saints or Mary (that would be heretical and breaks the first commandment), we only honor them and ask them to pray for us. We believe that Saints are people whose souls have entered Heaven and as such, they are very capable of praying for us and we can model our lives after them, admire them, and follow many of their teachings. But we worship God alone. I look forward to reading more here about other moms! :)

  11. Great post! Colleen, you seem to already be an apologist. Way to go with the honesty and sincerity. My husband and I also met at FUS!

  12. I really love this idea! And I'm with you and Carmen - we are more the same then different. I am a "mormon" mom and I loved reading about this "catholic" mom. We're both moms trying to raise children with faith in God and I can't wait to read another interview!

    Also, interesting to note that our doctrines are founded on the very same principle of the godhead. The first Article of Faith for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka, the mormons) is:

    We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

  13. I loved, loved, loved this interview. And then my heart sank when I read the part about sex and "no conception in a lab." I am curious about the thousands and thousands of women who go through fertilty treatment a year and their faith.