Editor’s Note: We congratulate our dear friend Heidi Bratton on the launch of her wonderful new book Homegrown Faith: Nurturing Your Catholic Family. You’ll definitely want to add this treasure to your personal library and share it with friends! LMH
For years now I have had a gorgeous, black and white photograph of a mother and child tacked onto a bulletin board in my kitchen. Under the photograph is a quote from Blessed Teresa of Calcutta that reads, “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”
I can think of few words that are more empowering of intentional Catholic parenting than those. Blessed Teresa knew that every big, peace-making, and world-shaping event does not get captured on the evening news. She knew that most of the life-changing things we say and do, do not even get noticed much less “tweeted” around the world or posted on someone’s Facebook wall. Even more importantly Blessed Teresa knew that right in our own homes and neighborhoods are people who are deserving of our love and attention.
I have to admit that early on in my parenting, sometimes I could embrace Blessed Teresa’s quote and its accompanying ideology, and sometimes I couldn’t. I wanted to do something great with my life as most young adults do, and having only ever been taught that the way to do that was by having a big, lucrative career or some other all-consuming passion outside of the home, I was conflicted when our children began to arrive. I felt this new desire to be a hands-on parent, but would I be throwing away everything about “me” if I focused my attention on them instead of on my other passions? Fortunately, as our family grew, I grew in understanding of Blessed Teresa’s spiritual ideology. I read more of her quotes like, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one,” and “love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand,” and “love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action.” After years of meditating on these quotes I found that I stopped worrying about the great things I couldn’t do and started fully applying myself to those I could do right at home.
To that point, this month will mark the sixth anniversary of a small, Catholic family life column I write for The Anchor newspaper of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts. The small seeds of spiritual insight planted in that newspaper have become like the ivy plants on the brick buildings in Harvard Square. Rooted, watered, and fertilized locally, the column’s little insights are now spreading widely, reaching out to families all over the world through the miracle of radio, online media, and this month by being published in a new book called Homegrown Faith; Nurturing Your Catholic Family.
Working to promote my new book has led me to ask myself what more I could write or say to encourage parents to put even more love into their families. I thought of many practical things, but then I also thought that, like myself when our children were younger, maybe there were some parents out there who still had conflicted feelings about the value of Blessed Teresa’s spiritual ideology. So, if anyone desires to really understand the power of one and of acting locally in order to have a global impact, then here’s my one suggestion: change the brand of laundry detergent you use for one month. Seriously.
I did this by accident one month and was astounded. Not only did my laundry area and our clothes smell better, fresher somehow, but so did my toddler’s stuffed animals, my daughter’s pillow at a sleepover, my teenagers’ towels at the beach, my husband’s work clothes, the wash the college kids brought back to school, and the clothes I handed down to another family.
Now imagine if somehow it had been a greater love that had been infused into each of those people instead of greater freshness that had been infused into their laundry. Wow! It was only one small change in my housekeeping, but it quickly carried throughout our home and to the world beyond, and so can any single choice we make to put more love into our family members.
What can you do to be convinced of the singular power of loving more intentionally and locally? Go home and use a new laundry detergent, and while you’re at it love your spouse/infant/toddler/teen/young adult in a fresh new way, too!
Copyright 2011 Heidi Bratton