Recently, a question posted on Twitter by the Archdiocese of Boston caught my eye. It asked a question: Who has taught you the art of living? The question also caught my heart as it was posed on the nineteenth anniversary of the day my mother went home to God.
We were a family of seven in the suburbs; hand-me-downs and second-hand toys were the norm. My mother used to say there was "too much month left at the end of the money" but there was always room at our dinner table for one or two more. My mother taught me to share what I had, even when I didn't think I had enough.
My mother sewed all our clothes, and went without the latest fashions herself, so that we could have what she felt was vital -- a Catholic education. She volunteered at our school, ran the parish Christmas Bazaar, and worked in a kindergarten classroom. She did all this while she was my father's right hand in his local political career, albeit behind the scenes. She always put her vocation to marriage first. My mother taught me to sacrifice for others.
From the early lessons of saying please and thank you, making my bed, and keeping my elbows off the table (that was a BIG one!), she moved on to the larger life coaching. She would say, "What you do and say matters," "respect yourself and others," and always -- as I left the house -- "remember who you are."
My mother taught me that I was a child of God, fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14). This lesson was the most important of all. Her actions showed me constantly that she believed this of every person she met.
Once, as my mother and I checked in to visit an elderly relative at a nursing home, another resident, agitated and confused, rushed to my mother and grabbed her arms. "I KNEW you'd come!" she shouted at my mother. "Sing me the song -- please -- sing it!" Without missing a beat, my mother broke into a full-throated version of "Que Sera, Sera". The patient calmed, enjoyed the serenade, and shuffled away in peace. My mother taught me to meet people where they are.
The Tweet I read quoted Cardinal Ratzinger when he said, "To evangelize means: to show this path -- to teach the art of living."
My mother taught me the art of living and showed me the path of evangelization. Because of her, I am always on mission.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.