The Lost Art of the RSVP

With the holidays upon us, I have had occasion to experience anew a baffling and troubling habit of our society.  I am calling it the “lost art of the RSVP.”

Let’s set the scene.  A mom of several children decides to host a Christmas party for the other moms and kids they know.  She enjoys parties and isn’t doing it out of a sense of obligation or pressure.  She creates and hands out printed invitations for a weekday afternoon, a time likely to be less busy than a night or weekend.  Then she plans a menu, simple food but with lots of kids you have to make plenty.  She prepares a few activities to keep the kids busy, and of course, spends hours cleaning her house.

She puts an RSVP date on the invitation, but as that date draws near, she has only heard from two or three women.  At least one of those says “maybe.”  Eventually, she starts texting the other invites, asking if they are coming.  “We’ll try” is the most common response, followed by no response at all.  A couple of people explain their families long list of foods they don’t eat, starting with refined sugar, and suggest they can’t come unless you have gluten free/paleo/vegetarian options.  After several days of cleaning, baking and preparing for this party, with her kids excited too, the day arrives.

One person is on time.  Two more are late.  The rest, who said “probably” or “maybe” or even “yes”, don’t show up.  They don’t text that day or anytime afterwards.  Later, the hostess might find out they were shopping, or at the park.  While it was nice to have those few guests over, it was hardly the party she spent so much time, energy and even money, planning.  It was just a glorified play date, with lots of left-over food.  Not to mention all the special foods she prepared for those with special requests, several of whom didn’t show up anyway.

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Inviting a person to one’s home should be an occasion for generous and joyful hospitality and fellowship, an enjoyable holiday experience to bless one’s friends, where we request the pleasure of another’s company.  Instead, inviting others to our home has become an “option if nothing better comes along,” an occasion where attending becomes a favor to the hostess.  Often she must pursue the guests for responses, and almost beg some to come so that there’s more than one person coming, so that all her hard work and generosity will be worth it.  All this, because she wishes to bless those around her.

What has happened to the beauty of hospitality?  Why is it that opening our home to others, instead of being met with gratitude, has become on occasion for neglect, rudeness, thoughtlessness, and downright rejection?  Why are we so unwilling to respond politely and to commit wholeheartedly, and instead hold out for something better?  Why are people too busy to enjoy each other’s presence, but instead prioritize only themselves, or default to whatever requires little effort?

These situations happen all throughout the year, and have become so common that they are made light of.  What used to be common courtesy has apparently become an extraordinary act of virtue, which few seem to practice.  But why does this happen?  All the time, I hear people, especially moms, complain that they are lonely, isolated, friendless.  Yet when offered hospitality and friendship, they don’t have time for it.  Many don’t even have time politely decline.

In our modern age, when répondez s’il vous plaît requires no more than a quick text message, why do so few extend this common courtesy to others?  Everyone’s lives are “so busy,” and people are quick to complain when they are not “treated well,” but where is the respect for other’s time and feelings?  Sadly, this lack of manners and kindness cannot be blamed on secular culture, as everyone I know who has done this to me has been a Christian.

This Advent and Christmas season, let’s try to practice the “art of the RSVP.”  Let us see invitations for what they are: an act of generous hospitality on the part of another.  Let’s try to respond promptly and politely, either yes or no, not maybe.  Let our yes be a commitment (barring sickness, etc.), and let us do our best to arrive on time to events.  If you feel lonely or isolated, take advantage of opportunities for fellowship!  Be open to friendship and then cultivate those relationships that attract you.  Reciprocate hospitality.

Finally (I say this for myself more than anyone) let us have the courage to continue offering, to continuing being vulnerable and opening our hearts and home for hospitality.  Each of us has much to give, but in the giving we leave ourselves open for rejection and pain.  So let’s pray for the grace to keep trying, to keep seeking until we find others who wish to build a community based on courtesy, generosity, and gratitude.

Matthew 22:1- 10 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 

 

 

Everyday Gratitude: wk. 10 {Thanksgiving Edition}

“Let us remember the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm, and look forward to the future with confidence.”
Pope St. John Paul the Great

At Mass on Thanksgiving day, our pastor mentioned the above quote from St. John Paul II. Certainly, it sums up very well what our Thanksgiving should look like. I have been thinking a lot about gratitude this month, and trying to remember my blessings, be happy and content in the present, and look forward to the future with great trust in the Providence of God. Ironically, I realized it’s been three weeks since I recorded my every gratitude. So here’s a few things I’ve been particularly grateful for this past month, though not necessarily in chronological order.

Dear Lord, I praise and thank you:

  • For the kids being all better after two weeks of a nasty virus. We had to stay home, and the Cecilia wasn’t sleeping well, and Grace was getting very antsy and wanting to get out and see her friends.
  • For a warm, snug house as the weather turns colder. Cozy blankets, and snuggle time.
  • For hosting Thanksgiving in our own home. And lots of help doing so from hubby, who cleaned the house, set the table and carved the turkey 🙂
  • For pleasant, sunny days, and the chance to be outside, take walks and go to the playground.
  • For our first hike since last spring, when we explored the Chancellorsville Battlefield.

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  • or the opportunity to pray for the Holy Souls this month in a special way.
  • For an almost six year old daughter, who keeps us amused by her constant chatter, and who has become an incredible helper, always willing to lend a had and do some clean-up. She even begged to clean the bathroom one day!
  • Raking leaves and the sweet smell of falling leaves and pine needles. There’s a lot of trees in our yard and we raked an enormous leaf pile, which the girls loved!

  • Making my first fresh flower arrangement for the church altar! I put it in front but it was moved in front of Our Lady 🙂 So blessed to be using my floral skills this way!
  • Freshly painted shutters for the house, changing the way the whole front looks! Great to be adding some *curb appeal* and looking forward to decorating for Christmas.

  • Checking out historic homes near our house, which had beautiful grounds to walk around. It’s a fun way to get out instead of going to a playground.
  • Christmas cards are almost done! Grace put on the stamps, return address labels, and then stuffed and sealed the envelopes! I cannot believe what an awesome helper she has become.
  • Walking through downtown to see the Christmas lights and displays. We love the town here because it’s so old fashioned and pretty.
  • Looking through pictures of the last month, I remember that at the beginning of November, Bobby and I were invited to a Gala to benefit the charitable outreaches of the OB/GYN I go to.  It’s an a great, pro-life practice, and we had a wonderful night out with dinner, live auction and dancing.

  • Gracie helped me plants 60 flower bulbs in the front yard.  Hopefully lots will bloom in the spring!
  • Solemnity of Christ the King and the end of the liturgical year. I love Advent, and I’m looking forward to it. Since it’s so short this year, I feel like this week is a bonus week to get ready *before Advent* instead of scrambling right after Thanksgiving.

My Sunday Best: Christ the King

Did you know its new years eve? The liturgical year ends this week as we prepare for the First Sunday of Advent.  The hymns for Christ the King Sunday are some of my favorites, especially “Crown Him With Many Crowns” and “To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King.”  The choir even sang the Byrd “Ave Verum” at Communion, which was a special treat.  The one thing I missed was the “O Rex Gloriae” motet, a postlude staple at Christendom.  The Mass felt incomplete without it.  (Kidding.  But it is sung after almost every Mass at Christendom and I miss hearing it.)

The girls were excited to start wearing their special Christmas dresses today, and I just love how beautiful Grace looks!  The other girls were napping but they looked so cute too 😉  Although Advent doesn’t start for another week, we unpacked decorations today and its nice to feel like we have a “head start.”

Yesterday, we strolled downtown and enjoyed the window displays and Christmas decorations.  This was a light store; it was very bright and glittery, and they were selling stunningly ornate Santas and other Christmas decorations, which all sparkled and glittered.  Amazing.  The kids (ok, all of us) also love the shop with the five cat residents 🙂

I also completed most of my Christmas shopping online this weekend, which is a wonderful feeling, and I’ll be sending out my Christmas cards this week!  Advent and Christmas are my favorite time of year, but first we’ll be celebrating Grace’s sixth birthday on Tuesday!  Stay tuned for her special birthday post!

Happy I remembered to get a picture today, so I could link up with Rosie on this beautiful solemnity.

 

To Fail, Or Not To Fail

Recently, the topic of failure has captured my attention.  At my Bible study group this week, reading about Rachel and Leah, we talked about fear and failure.  Fear of failure, rejection, loneliness, lack of whatever, etc. As a society, “failure” has become one of the worst evils, even a sin (right up there with intolerance).  Success has become a god.  If a person is not “successful,” whether in terms of money, production, usefulness, achievements or physical attractiveness, then they lack dignity in our world.  They may be rejected, criticized, marginalized, determined to have “less value.”  But right now, I’m not considering the grave evils and problems arising from how we treat persons.  I wish to take a look at the concept of failure, as it affects our everyday lives, even if we don’t take it to the extreme of moral relativists.

Failure constitutes a very real part of each person’s life.  Past generations probably knew this better, because they had less illusions of control than modern men.  When livelihood depended on weather and the success of crops or the flourishing of animals, things ultimately out of our control, people could not see every failure as “their fault.”  Tragic, certainly, when your entire harvest is wiped out by grasshoppers.  But your “fault”?  Of course not; people knew they couldn’t control the insects.

But now, we think we are in control.  Because food, clothes and shelter are readily available, regardless of weather or working conditions (I am talking about first world countries, of course) we think we have control over our lives.  When huge, devastating storms come, I don’t think its God’s judgement, but it is a reminder of God’s power, and the fact that human are NOT in control.  A hurricane can wipe out everything, regardless of what we have or what we do.  I think its important to stress it isn’t one person’s or even group of people’s “fault”.  But it is a call to see that we can only depend on God, and with His help, and the solidarity of other people, life can go on.

However, in every day life, when hurricanes don’t bring devastation, we are often saved from our failures, in another harmful habit of modern society.  Much, much too often, a person is “saved” from their failures by their parents, or the government.  I am constantly amazed how many people are saved from the consequences of their actions, and the entitlement and indolence that results from it.

Friends, we need to learn how to fail.  I write this for myself, first of all.  I need to learn how to fail.  First of all, to not live my life in fear of failure.  In one of the first Emily P. Freeman podcasts I listened to, she spoke about considering, before a difficult decision, “am I being led by love or pushed by fear?”  If I am making decisions based on fear of failure, that usually translates to fear of the difficult, fear that something that will push me, make me uncomfortable, maybe make me grow….  There is a quote from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that I keep coming back to,  “the world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.”  But what sort of “greatness” does the Holy Father mean?  Money, worldly success, power?  Of course not.  He means spiritual greatness, a greatness of spirit overflowing with charity and the presence of God, a witness to the world of self-sacrificing love.

But how do we grow in love, selflessness, compassion?  Through suffering.  Through failure.  In her book Cultivate, Lara Casey writes that
“I was too afraid to plant anything from seeds at first.  I feared I would mess up                    and everything in my garden would die.  And I believed the lie that if I couldn’t do it perfectly, I wasn’t going to do it at all.
I was conditioned to think that messes were bad and doing it perfectly the first                    time was good.  To me, there was no in-between.”

We are so caught up in making the “right” decision, “right” because it will lead to success.  So concerned about the outcome and forgetting that the experience, the journey,  the work, may be most important.  Because if our ultimate goal is Heaven, suffering, failures, and set backs are the path to get their.  Undoubtedly, the fact that a life of failure in the eyes of the world can result in eternal life, is a mystery, a paradox.  A truth hard to wrap our minds around.  If I am seeking God’s will, and doing God’s will, I may very well fail, in the eyes of the world.  I may not be thin, wealthy, powerful, influential, or even particularly well liked by many people.  But if I am doing God’s will, it doesn’t matter.

On the other hand, worldly failure can also make room for a more quiet and humble sort of success, even on earth.  A woman might give up her job to stay home with her children, a man might give up a promotion at work so he can spend weekends with his family.  A person might give up a lucrative job to be a missionary, or teach in a Catholic school, or work with the poor.  A man might live his life for the Church, as a priest.  A woman might consecrate herself to God alone, to save many souls.

Success should only be measured through the eyes of God, but only He knows all outcomes and results.  Only He can judge how successful we have been with the life He has given us.  Maybe we should be less concerned with results and more concerned with living life, and striving to serve Him in the moment, instead of looking ahead to a big goal we want to accomplish.  Because if that goal is getting ourselves and others to Heaven, we can hardly judge our success while still on earth.

And when through our own fault, or perhaps no fault of our own, we experience failure, and that failure brings suffering, maybe we can try to look past the failure to a good, even an eternal good, that results.  To see even the suffering as a kind of paradoxical success, for it has brought us to the foot of the Cross.Crucifiction_icon

Everyday Gratitude: wk. 9

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment
and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.”
St. Gianna Beretta Molla

  • I praise you, Lord, for the daily gift of my children on earth; to love and cherish and educate.  May I be truly grateful for them.
  • I praise you, Lord, for the grace to enjoy this autumn.  For the first time I can remember, autumn seems like my favorite season.  The vibrant colors in Virginia this year, the clear blue sky, perfect days and peaceful weather have all been very beautiful.  I cannot remember ever liking autumn before.  But the joy I felt this year, pure enjoyment every time I notice the sun shining on brightly colored leaves, truly it could only be a gift from God.

  • I praise you, Lord, for yummy apples to eat, for friends to visit, for plenty of time in the fresh air and sunshine, and lots of places for my girls to run around.  I praise you for friends old and new, and the fun of seeing old friends even here in our “new town.
  • I praise you, Lord, for the help of my in laws in fixing our broken ceiling, and the new plants I found on sale.  Now to hope that they survive the winter and blossom in the spring!
  • I praise you, Lord, for the wonderful priests at our new parish.  One of them visited on Monday and did a house blessing for us.  He was also in seminary with Bobby, so we had lots of fun visiting with him.  The girls really liked him, and they got really wild and excited while he was here!
  • I praise you, Lord, for the ability and freedom to visit friends.  We traveled five hours yesterday (round trip) to visit a friend whose husband is deployed.  The kids really liked playing with her daughter, and we enjoyed another beautiful fall day.

  • I praise you, Lord, for the fun the girls had dressing up as Minions for Halloween.  They wore their costumes to a Halloween party, to trick or treating at a local nursing home, and trick or treating around a neighborhood.  Bobby dressed as Gru, complete with accent, and they were so cute going door to door!  Best costumes I’ve managed so far!
  • I praise you, Lord, for the feast of All Saints, when we honor all in Heaven.  And for the month of All Souls, when we remember to pray extra for the holy souls in Purgatory.
  • I praise you, Lord, for the confusion and disappointment of being turned down for two job interviews, and the discouragement that I cannot even manage to get an interview for a job as a grocery cashier.  I trust you have a plan, no matter how frustrating this whole situation is.