This morning I stepped out of my comfort zone and attended a Bible study group for mothers at our parish. I’ve felt a little adrift ever since we moved here in November, knowing no one at our new parish except the two priests. Of course this past winter was absolutely terrible for getting out and exploring and meeting new people. I was exhausted and nauseous and the weather was… well it was winter in New England, nuff said.
I know in two more months I’ll probably be going back into retreat mode, dealing with the arrival of baby Benedict and all that entails. Fortunately God has given me a golden season right now, a lovely, leafy springtime. I have energy again and am not too debilitated by my sciatica and aching back. The girls are both taking simultaneous afternoon naps, leaving us nice wide-open mornings. Time to reach out and make some connections while I can. In the past few weeks we’ve enjoyed story time at the library, meeting other mothers of 2 and 3 year olds. Now a new Bible study starts up at the parish that actually meets at a time I can make and even offers babysitting. Time to meet other moms from church.
I had no idea what to expect, but I was certain that this was something I needed to do and I’m so glad I went. I’m not looking to make a best friend or have deep theological discussions about scripture, though neither do I discount these possibilities—anything is possible; but for me that’s not what this is about. It’s about stepping out of my comfort zone to make connections and become a part of a community. I hate going to Mass every Sunday and not knowing anyone. Oh there is almost always at lest one nice soul who stops by to compliment the girls. We are starting to get to the point of recognizing some faces and even saying hi to a couple of people. But I want to feel like I belong, like I’m a part of something, not like I’m just visiting.
And so there I was, walking into a room full of strangers with Sophie in my arms and Bella at my side. Shy introvert me. At least the girls sort of provide an ice-breaker. There’s an automatic script that everyone can go through when you’ve got a baby in your arms: how old is she, what’s her name, etc. It’s familiar and comforting and made the whole process a little less stressful for me.
It was a small group, I was so glad. Just four other women plus the woman who was babysitting. Everyone else already knew each other, of course. It’s not a large parish, not a large town for that matter. They were all very welcoming to me, though. One said she’d noticed us at Mass and complimented me on the girls’ behavior.
The Bible study manual the group is using is a Marian Bible study for moms put out by Our Sunday Visitor. Lots of annoying fill in the blank workbook questions of the kind that drive me crazy; but I know are helpful for getting discussion rolling. Otherwise the layout is rather good. Lots of meat to chew on. Today’s chapter was on the Annunciation and began with the angel’s visit to Zacchariah and the went on to a bunch of prophetic Old Testament texts that point to the Messiah, then on to the actual annunciation from Luke. We skipped over a few sections for the sake of time.
I liked that the intro to the chapter framed the discussion specifically for moms with an anecdote about the author losing her cool while trying to do too many things at once. A spaghetti sauce moment she called it. Much of the discussion revolved around the virtue of patience and giving up our need for control to allow God to be in charge. Everyone shared several anecdotes about her home and children, I felt like I got to know everyone else a little bit. Surprisingly, I think I probably talked too much rather than too little. Odd to find myself spilling my guts about my miscarriage and cancer scare to women I’d just met an hour before.
I was glad our pastor stepped in at the beginning and end of the session. He was understandably called away in the middle. He was able to help guide the discussion a little deeper than it might have gone without his guidance. And since he’s a family friend, I feel like I have a prior connection with him that made it a bit easier to slip into being a part of the group. Especially when at the end when we were wrapping things up and chatting he commented on being able to see the Bettinelli in Sophia.
I felt like a bit of an intellectual snob at several points during the session. I’m pretty sure I’ve read and studied theology more than any of the other women. I’m a huge reader and in the past few years I’ve really tried to get better educated about my faith. My husband and sister were both Theology majors after all and I grew up in the Catholic bookstore that my parents owned. I met Dom at a Bible study he was running that really challenged me at time. And I know that for my intellectual pride can be a stumbling block. So I think on that level this Bible study will be good for me. It will challenge me in a different sort of way, to focus on faith not as an intellectual exercise, as can be my wont, but in terms of my motherhood, my vocation, the daily trials and tribulations. And at the same time it won’t be the same kinds of challenge and support I get from my online friends, who though they are all very different are still all so much more like me than any of the women I met today. Even when more women join, I suspect it will still be a group of women very unlike me. One of the women said today in a moment that floored me that she’d never considered Mary as a person, a mother who’d had faced challenges and trials. She was just a pretty image, a beautiful, perfect woman.