Sunday, September 9, 2012


A strong cup of coffee, a pretty table, the pure voices of these beautiful men.

Our little family has been trying to make Sunday, well, special. 

In the rough and tumble of life with small kids, this does not mean living out the fantasy of high culture I entertained before I was married. We do not play string quartets together, for example, or feast on delicate cheesecakes.

I wish I could say we studied Scripture or something.

Actually, most Sundays are a big scrabble to get to Church, where I run in four different directions, persuading, teaching, threatening, exhorting, and herding my sons back to the pew. I try to listen to a word or two, to ponder in my heart for the week. I hope that my children will come away with something to remember. We place ourselves, mentally, in the chalice on the altar, remembering that in spite of us we are lifted up to the heavenly Father, who loves us so tenderly.

Will is the cantor for the Latin Mass here in Peterborough. He and his friend John form a two-man schola. While the rest of the Pemberton family rolls under or lolls about or jumps over the pew (depending on age and ability), Will and John sing the beautiful, ancient Gregorian chant. It is a very real, visual reminder of our place in the Church at this time of history—there was a time when the cultural treasures of the Church, that is, the beauty of music, art, and liturgy, were a free gift, the gift of centuries of dedicated men and women whose quiet lives produced something worthy to be handed down from generation to generation. 

Now in the post-modern melee, without the help of clergy or any other institution, it is up to lay people to give this gift back to the Church, that is, to the community of brothers and sisters who worship around the same altar.  Because we are raising families too, we are stretched to the utmost of time and energy. We feel tired most of the time. But the way we see it,  someone's got to do it. "If a thing is worth doing, it's worth doing badly." (G.K. Chesterton) Not that we're trying to be shoddy. At the risk of sounding romantic, I feel that we are standing in the gap between the modernist revolutionaries of my parents' generation and the unknown future, the "new springtime" of faith and culture in my children's generation. 

It's exciting to think about the future, and what it will hold. We didn't choose to be born in this time, yet here we are, with the obligation to choose, as Gandalf tells Frodo, "what to do with the time we've been given." I don't know what trails our children will blaze, or where they'll lead. Maybe they will help to grow a uniquely Canadian expression of Catholicism, just as there is a uniquely West African expression at Keur Moussa. All we know is that we have to give them the tools. 

And that brings us back to Sunday. One of those tools is joy, not the feeling of joy (because alas we can't magically produce it), but the activity of joy, doing joyful things together—having brunch in special dishes, special clothes, a special lively baroque playlist on itunes, a windy hike, a board game with papa. It's a humble start, but as the Sunday liturgy proclaims, 
...."the joy of the resurrection renews the whole world."

Some of the fiddle-faddle I'm working on on my lazy sunday afternoon...


  1. The little dolly with the fork made me smile! I think all parents need to find joy and peace in the cacophony of our lives. It will be quiet soon enough...


  2. Oh Mary, how alike our families are! You are doing such a wonderful job building up this Catholic culture in your children. I'll never forget that joyful moment while baking cookies for St. Nicholas' day last year and my Thomas proclaimed, "I love being Catholic! We have SO many traditions!" From the simplicity of Sunday brunch and focused family time to all the bigger "stuff" of our domestic churches, we are weaving a thread of beauty into our children's lives, which I hope they'll draw strength from as adults. You obviously have!

    1. Oh thank you Erin. I often have "what would Erin do?" good that we can draw from each other. I think I accidentally deleted your last comment, I'm so sorry. I was trying to publish it. And nurse a baby, I think.

    2. And I often have "what would Mary do?" moments, only to remember that I don't seem to have the energy or talent to come up with half the stuff you seem to always be creating on a regular basis. Mostly, especially during this pregnancy, I consider myself supermom if the laundry is mostly caught up, people are fed healthy food (I have yet to make kimchi though...I'm not sure I'll like it) and I get a decent night's sleep. My expectations of myself are pretty low right now. But it is always a blessing to know we inspire one another!

  3. Bravo on going to Mass with the kids without Will sitting with you - something I quite dread. What board game is that?

  4. I am so touched by this post on so many levels. What a beautiful and simple gift of making Sundays special for your children. My husband and I are trying to do likewise for our little ones, too, and you gave me some wonderful concrete ideas. Use the fancy dishes -- why hadn't I thought of that?

    Thank you for your lovely blog. It's a breath of fresh air.

  5. Mary, thank you for a beautiful post especially the link to the abbey in Senegal.

  6. Wow, I bought some incredibly cute Japanese pegs covered with handmade paper about two years ago and they've been sitting in a drawer every since, as I didn't know what to hang from them. Just saw your photo of drawings and such hanging from pegs -- now I do. :)