Last week I did the baptism for some good friends in the parish. It has been wonderful to journey with this couple during my time here at St. Barnabas. They are at a time of renewal in their lives right now and are embracing their faith more than they ever have before. With her last child she had difficulty with the breast feeding and it was really hard for her because she has learned from her first child that not only is breast-feeding the healthiest way for the child, but it was also helped create an emotional bond between her and her child. Some of her most precious moments have been the times where she has stepped away from all the activity of life and held her child to her chest.
As I was writing this homily and trying to figure out how to not make it awkward I noticed Chris pulling up to the rectory. Chris came into the office to make copies for a couple that they are preparing for marriage. I got so excited when I saw him come in. I ran to the main office and shouted out: “Chris, I’m just writing a homily about you. What can you tell me about breast feeding?” He looked confused, understood I was probably going somewhere with this, and then laughed. “Let me tell you my first uncomfortable experience with breast feeding. My wife and I were in
“Do you ever get used to it?” I asked. He responded matter of factly: “Well, yeah, it’s like prayer, ya know. You just do it. You have to get past that awkwardness, let the barriers come down, and you realize what a natural and beautiful thing it is.”
Why do we have an awkwardness with what is so natural and beautiful? The prophet Isaiah is trying to reveal something about God to us.
Oh, that you may suck fully
of the milk of her comfort,
that you may nurse with delight
at her abundant breasts!
Both with breastfeeding and prayer there seems to be an awkwardness and a reservation to enter into it. Ok, so we know that for some reason both are awkward. But we also know that if you just do it and enter into it and allow yourself to get past the awkwardness we will discover something beautiful.
The idea is that we can become this child, held by God, wrapped in God’s motherly love, so united with her that we can be naked and suck from her, taking her milk into us.
We all have this deep yearning to be fed and to be held and nurtured. And we can seek in all kinds of ways that may not be the holiest or healthiest ways.
What allows me to be a Celibate priest and a happy celibate priest is that I find this intimacy with God.
As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms,
and fondled in her lap;
as a mother comforts her child,
so will I comfort you;
The Friday before the baptism this couple had myself and the Godparents over for dinner. I got to hold the baby for a little while and it wasn’t long before he started to fuss… the more he fussed the more I panicked… to be honest I don’t deal well with crying babies so after only 30 seconds I gave up and placed him in his mother’s arms. Wouldn’t you know it… a moment later he was totally content. There’s something about a mother’s touch. And there is something about God’s touch. He knows us so well and knows exactly how we need to be held and rocked, loosely or tightly, gently or bouncing, God has that mother’s touch that can comfort and settle us like no others.
The Mystical Poet, John of the Cross, explains: “It can happen that God is working to keep the person in that quite stillness, and she is struggling with her imagination and thoughts, and wants to work for herself. It is like a little boy: when his mother wants to carry him in her arms, he starts screaming and fighting because he wants to walk; so he gets nowhere, and he holds up his mother!”
Get over your pried, your awkwardness, your uncomfort, stop holding God up from working in your life and let the Motherly God hold you, feed you, comfort you, and delight in you.
How do we do this? Prayer and the sacraments, reflecting and receiving.
-Spend time every day with quality prayer. It takes about a half an hour for a mother to breast feed her child. Why not spend a half an hour in prayer, just being held by God, being fed by God, being comforted by God?
-Sign up for a Holy Hour at the Church and spend time being fed in the wee hours of the night… those hours always have openings!
-Go on a retreat. We have two beautiful retreat centers in our diocese: The Jesuit Retreat House in
-spend time with friends who nurture you and nourish your soul.
-Spend some time doing Spiritual Reading. My new favorite book on prayer is “The Fulfillment of All Desire.” By Ralph Martin. Pick it up at one of our local catholic bookstores.
-Come to the Eucharist Expecting God to mother you and comfort you.
As with breastfeeding prayer can be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not for us. When we allow God to hold us and to mother us what a beautiful experience it is!