Last Saturday, The Zechariah House hosted a party to celebrate the Feast Day of St. John the Baptist, our patron saint. Next week, we’re having a Candlelight to celebrate the time we had with one of our Summer Corps. The following week, we’ll have a party to commemorate one of our mom’s one year of sobriety. Maggie’s Place as a whole is celebrating our 15 year anniversary… all year long! We are Maggie’s Place and we like to party.
Matthew Kelly once wrote, “We become what we celebrate,” and he encourages us to think about what it is we celebrate… our faith, the seasons, beauty, goodness, love, birthdays, sobriety, courage, all of it; and at the heart of our celebration is the joy of life. In a Harvard lecture, Jean Vanier said, “We need to rediscover celebration… Celebration is to share what and who we really are; it is to express our love for one another, our hopes, and to rejoice in being called together as parts of the same body. As we go from singing, dance and laughter into silence, there will be a sense of presence. Somewhere at the heart of celebration there is the consciousness of the presence of Christ. Christ is the one who is our cornerstone, the one who has drawn us together, and we rejoice because He is present with us.”
We welcome pregnant mothers into our homes because one of the most important things to celebrate is the gift of life. Every child born in our homes is the newest vessel of the heart of Christ and the graces delivered with that baby are nothing short of a miracle. Not only is motherhood a reality that is life-giving, but often it also becomes life-saving. It isn’t rare for a Maggie’s Place mom to do a 180 once she’s holding her child in her arms. In her begins to shine a renewed sense of purpose, a greater tenderness, and the hope of being a better woman than she was the day before. She begins to direct her life to benefit someone else. She begins to grow in selflessness and finds courage in that. It is easiest to recognize then that Christ is fully present, and we celebrate.
Turn back the clock a couple thousand years… A young woman in the village of Bethlehem is giving birth to a son. Shepherds and hosts of angels appear to celebrate His birth. They celebrated the life-saving presence of Christ then as we celebrate it now, with praise and thanksgiving.
Now bring it back to 2015. The week before Easter, I went home to spend some vacation time visiting my parents. As we were finishing up dinner the first night, my parents told me, “Ariana, your little sister is six months pregnant.” As they told me, my heart shattered. My little sister? She’s only 20! She’s still in college! She’s not even married! How could this be?! Immediately, my only concern was for the difficulties that would arise and the struggles she would face. How would she support herself and her baby? How would she finish college? Would the baby’s father even help her? How could I have been serving at Maggie’s Place all this time, completely ignorant of the fact that my little sister was in the same boat as many of the moms I was serving? These were the cries of my heart that night and we forgot to celebrate.
Knowing that we were meant to celebrate the presence of Christ in this new baby, my sister’s baby, why didn’t we? Was it a little too close, a little too personal? Did her humanity frighten me? Was His presence a little too difficult to accept in my own home? I allowed fear for her future to dampen my recognition of the gift of life. Still, we had a choice. We could allow these fears to take over our hearts and lead us into an ever-darkening place, or, we could give each other enough room to be human and allow that humanity to teach us. We could step aside and separate ourselves from the difficulties, or, we could come together as a family and help my sister unwrap the gift of motherhood she had been given. The choice was there; we just had to let our hearts decide.
Last week I had the greatest honor of standing by my little sister’s bedside as she labored for over 40 hours to bring her baby into the world. Finally, on June 27th at 3:58pm, baby Lazarus was born, weighing in at a perfect 6 lbs and 11 ounces. The celebration broke out and once again my heart was shaken. It was moved by the way my sister held Lazarus so close to her heart, by the way she spoke so lovingly to him, by the way our whole family gathered around with nothing but joy in our hearts and smiles on our faces. We celebrated because Christ was present, because that tiny little baby that brought us all together for the first time in a long time, because this was the newest face of Christ in our world.
Someone once said, “Our children are our most precious gift, a marvel of blossoming uniqueness and individuality.” This is true. Each child is a cause for celebration, a new beacon of light and a genuine motivation for healing and growth. It is an honor to celebrate motherhood because it is life-giving, not only to the baby as it forms in the womb from the moment of conception, but also to every life that Christ encounters through that child’s life. Let the celebration continue as we pray, “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. Enkindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.”
By Ariana Rangel, a MissionCorps member