"Who dat?" three-year-old Sarah toyed with the medals I always wear around my neck when I'm doing anything more cerebral than taking out the trash. I was just about to leave for school to take my last exam for the semester: Church History.
One eye on the clock, the other at the place on my neck where her grubby forefinger is pointing, I looked closely at the three disks at the end of my chain. "Well, that one's St. Teresa… She's a doctor of the Church."
"Ta-eesa? Oh. Who dat?"
"You know who that is." I waited.
"Yes, that's Mother Mary. She watches over us both while we're away from each other."
"Oh." Sarah's brown eyes widen as her peepers fall on a third, unfamiliar figure. "Who dat?"
"That," I tell her with a smile, "is St. Scholastica."
She regards me with great seriousness. "Sooo… kooo… asaka."
"Schoooo LAST ica. She was St. Benedict's twin sister."
I smile and hug her. "That's it. Someday, when you go to college like Mommy, I'll get you a set of your very own. These smart ladies help me do my very best at school. I ask them to help me whenever I need to be especially smart, like today."
She grins at me broadly. "SAS suh kuh."
As I pulled out of the driveway, I contemplated what a special moment that was. Finals week is always a little tense… The extra studying puts the whole family a bit on edge, as I try to get everything done. My husband is always a mensch about it, and steps up to fill in the gap with courage and his own inimitable brand of fatherly ministrations.
But it is Mom they want, and we all know it.
This lasted for almost two years after we got the kids. But as time went on and it became clear that the kids were here to stay, it was equally clear that it was going to be impossible to juggle the magazine and graduate school and church and writing/networking/platform building, etc., and still keep the home fires burning with anything resembling a cheery glow. Something had to give. And so Theological German went on the back burner indefinitely.
Now, Christopher's first preschool teacher had accused me of selfishly putting my own education above Christopher's needs. (I find it disheartening how quickly some attribute selfish motives to mothers whose vocations are more complex than basic housekeeping and childrearing functions. We are capable of hearing God's voice, too!) I knew in my heart this wasn't the problem. And yet, I recognized that there are some things that (a) only a mother can do and (b) that she has to do within a certain proscribed period of time, or need not bother doing at all. If I did not give these little kids the attention they craved, in a few years it would be too late to reach them.
My patronesses came through for me that night. Despite my dearth of study time, I managed a decent grade on the exam, and the professor had some nice comments on my final paper.
However, it was a fourth patronness, St. Edith Stein, who gave me the greatest assistance. She taught me that authentic femininity prizes order in her thinking, and understands that the functions associated with the mind — teaching and reading and writing and studying — must be carefully balanced with the other functions of the womanly vocation. They must have their own place and time, so that they may be given full attention within appropriate boundaries, determined by a woman's other responsibilities and constraints.
And so, I concluded that I needed to set aside my classroom experiences for a time. While I prefer to continue my studies, St. Edith teaches that one's highest obligations do not always coincide with one's strongest preferences … or even one's strongest natural gifts. My calling as "mother" has to supercede my calling as "student" for the sake of love, for knowledge without love "puffs up."
May the height of your obligations keep you on your knees, and allow your diligence and intelligence to shine with their fullest potential.
St. "Saskika," pray for us.