HOLY HOMEWORK

For My Children, Not for Me

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Moira was a good girl who got pregnant at the end of March in her senior year at St. Damien's High School. She often thought this was lucky timing since she did not start showing until just after her graduation in June. There is no such thing as Catholic school uniforms in maternity sizes! Her mother continued to pray rosary upon rosary as she had been doing all through Moira's turbulent teens. After the baby was born, her father disowned her and threw her and the infant out of the house. The spiral downward continued with another fatherless child three years later. By the time her second son was 20 months old she had managed to secure a tiny loft on the lower east side of town where they barely managed to survive on welfare and food stamps. And just when she thought life couldn't possibly get more stressful the doctor informed her that her third child was due in seven months.

From the cupboard Moira retrieved the last can of chickpeas, rinsed the beans and sorted them out between her boys. Five-year-old Justin counted the morsels on his brother Gordon's highchair tray, then the few on his own plate, looked intently into his mother's eyes and said, “Something is wrong, isn't it.” The single mother of soon-to-be three shook her head gently, lied “No, everything's fine,” and retreated to the bathroom to weep in silence.

Staring wearily at her haggard reflection in a mirror of tears she prayed. “God, I know I don't deserve help from you for all the sins I've committed, so I won't ask you for anything for myself. But you know the check is still another week away and my babies are starving. Please Lord. Not for me, but for my children. Help me get some food for them. Amen.”

The sudden buzzing of the doorbell startled her back to the present. She walked to the top of the stairs where she could make out the figure of her slumlord standing on the porch. “The witch is probably coming for the rent,” she thought to herself. This was the last person on earth she wanted to see right now. Cracking the door ajar Moira was about to launch into the-check-is-in-the-mail fib when she noticed two shopping bags sitting on the stoop. “These are for you,” said the super with a scowl. “I know groceries can get pretty thin toward the end of the month. Don't thank me. I don't really like you but you have children and they have to eat. You don't owe me anything. Just don't expect me to make a habit of this, understand?” Without waiting for a reply, the saint in witch's clothing turned on her heels and quickly marched away.

Even today, Moira can recall every item in those Acme sacks. There was a gallon of milk and a gallon of orange juice. Her 5-year-old had only eaten cereal with watered-down milk and her baby had never tasted orange juice in his 20 months of life. There were a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread, an assortment of fruits and veggies, sliced cheeses, a package of bologna, hotdogs, buns, a jar of mustard and a small box of white powdery donuts. Moira gazed on her sons' faces covered with confectionary sugar. For the first time ever they were both grinning from ear to ear. While they were wide-eyed with glee, she was teary-eyed with thanksgiving. “Whoever says God doesn't hear our prayers is very wrong,” she thought to herself. “And whoever thinks all landlords are heartless are sadly mistaken.”

For Holy Homework: Let's sip a small glass of heavily watered-down milk or orange juice or coffee or tea. With each disagreeable swallow, let's thank God for the very agreeable abundance we have and for the many prayers of petition He has answered.

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