My Motherhood Is an Evangelical Act

Julie Heinen // Tales From the Trenches


May 29  

“You forgot the Tequila.” Surprised, I glanced over at a fellow customer who was observing me attempting to use the self-checkout while managing two restless little people. I laughed, and we had a brief exchange. It ended with him remembering the mayhem of his own twin daughters years ago. Though unremarkable, it was a moment of goodwill. It was also a better encounter with the general public than others have been. When people encounter my messy life and efforts to rear children, reactions range from concern, wistfulness, bewilderment, or indifference. Once, a toddler instinctively followed my crew to our minivan and tried to climb in; clearly, this is where the party is!

As my oldest is now twelve, I’ve learned to lean into the spectacle of raising six children. There is also something quite fortunate in this predicament: my motherhood is an evangelical act. Pope Paul VI thinks so. Today, on his feast day, I think of his fervent invitation in the document, Evangelization in the Modern World (Evangelii Nuntiandi). Here, he brilliantly anticipates the present situation; namely, the need to propose Christ anew to people who are baptized, yet live far from Christ. The Pope insists that the Gospel is accompanied by the “witness of life” in a century that thirsts for authenticity:  “These ‘signs of the times’ should find us vigilant. Either tacitly or aloud – but always forcefully – we are being asked: Do you really believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you really preach what you live? The witness of life has become more than ever an essential condition for real effectiveness in preaching.” (no. 76)

The world needs my motherhood and my kids to bump into. The chance to stop and make my baby smile, to listen to a nonsensical tale from my three-year-old about what just happened at the park, to give me their hand-me-downs. Even my husband throwing a ball with our son has become a rare sighting in a world that is caught up in the strangest of times. The world sees our humanity and is reminded of its own.

Continuing with the “longest shortest time” of being a parent, I’m grateful to get a glimpse of how God cherishes and makes fruitful the unremarkable days. Far, far more of the time, the unevangelized eyes are the eyes in my own home, the ones asking, “Do you really believe this?” Myself included.

I attempt to seize the teachable moments, to pray the family Rosary, to remind them that, “We love siblings more than toys.” Likewise, my children heal my humanity when they forgive quickly, wish to sit next to me at dinner, or think I’m funny. The dark moments serve their purposes, too. My household is not spared the chaos of the seven deadly sins, and I am daily sent searching for God’s mercy. 

Equipped with a theology degree, I had imagined my journey to be one in ministry and professional evangelization. God is far more creative and imaginative than I, and he has prepared an abundance of good works for me to walk in. I cherish my evangelical role in “preschool nation,” even if it’s mostly as a civilizing force through directives such as, “The floor is not a trash can.” My cup overfloweth!

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  • This is filled with the Spirit of humility, charity, and the docility that characterized the Blessed Virgin… perhaps without the Tequila… powerful words. Thank you Julie.

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