Busted Halo

Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.

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August 31st, 2010

A Life of Significance


lalupe-a_life_of_significanceWe regularly receive the Houston Catholic Worker newspaper and the latest issue contained a big surprise.  The couple that founded Casa Juan Diego, the Houston Catholic Worker, is having another book released in November.

If I tried to tell you about the myriad of services that Casa Juan Diego offers there is really no way of doing it justice.  It is a house of hospitality for undocumented women, children, and men.  They have an ever-growing huge ministry helping the undocumented sick and injured.  They have food and clothing distributions several times a week for the community.  They have clinics with a variety of doctors and dentists that donate their time.  They have a big organic garden that provides food for all these different houses.  They print a newspaper.  And the list goes on and on.  Somehow the couple that runs the place has found time to write another book.  It’s truly amazing.  These people really work and live as if everything depended on it.

After Brandon and I read through this paper and pre-ordered their new book, we just sat in our living room staring at each other.  When you hear about a life like this that is so clearly making a difference in the world, it puts your life perspective.  It makes my life of changing diapers and reading Goodnight Moon a gazillion times seem somewhat lame.  Brandon said, “I want a life of significance.”  Brandon voiced his concern that we have not done any true volunteer work in a couple years.  Because our jobs have been ministry related, we’ve slacked and not done more than our jobs in a while.  It’s a fair point.

But I’ve been thinking about that statement.  A life of significance.  I don’t think that people who do amazing things in their lives and change history have super powers while the rest of us don’t.  I think they answer God’s call when it comes.  Yes, they have to work extremely hard and sacrifice a lot but if they’re willing, God gives them the grace to do so.

The Catholic Worker life is so clearly a life devoted to God.  Doing the works of mercy everyday (feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, caring for the sick, etc).  The idea of doing this is so noble and romantic but the actual nitty gritty of it is tough.  Being a Catholic Worker is working with those that other people won’t.  The dirty, the smelly, the dying, the sick, the suffering.  When I worked as a Catholic Worker I was tested and tried in patience and humility constantly and the day to day was nothing like the romantic ideas that an idealist might come with.  But I went to bed every night knowing that I had given that day everything I had.  I felt fulfilled.

I left the Catholic Worker because I felt my vocation was to marry Brandon and become a mom.  One day Brandon and I have the dream to open up a community center where we provide whatever the community needs.  Not a Catholic Worker per se but something like it.  But that day isn’t today.  We knew having kids would put that off for a while.

I believe a life of significance is saying “yes” to God when God comes a-knockin’.  At the moment, sure, my life may be pureed food and strollers, but it’s still important work.  I can still give the day everything I’ve got and feel fulfilled at the end of the day.  If I never make the history books and only have a life of caring for my family I think it would still be a life fully lived.  Maybe God will call us to do more tomorrow but at the moment I really believe that God wants me to learn how to take care of my family.  And that is pretty darn significant.

The Author : Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft
Vanessa, a Notre Dame grad, loves the Catholic Worker Movement, Catholic education, and overbearing Mexican mothers, which she may or may not be. She lives in Austin with her husband and five daughters and is a freelance writer. You can find Vanessa at v.kraft.im or follow Vanessa on Twitter @laluped.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Amber Fogarty

    Great post! Since completing my year of service 5 years ago, I’ve often struggled with whether or not I’m doing enough to serve those in need. I continue to recognize that God calls us in different ways throughout our lives. At that time in my life, I was called to be a full-time volunteer. Now my volunteer commitments aren’t as significant because my current calling is being a wife and mother. Our service as parents and spouses is exactly where God wants us to be.

    There’s a season for everything. This season we are blessed to have a family to love and nurture. How amazing is that?

  • Karin Samulis

    I’ve got to agree with the two comments before mine! Also want to add that (as someone older might, ha ha!) Sometimes the “significant” moments may not be apparent immediately. Or you may not see the why of where you are for some time. I’ve been in a job I truly don’t care for, for a number of years. Crying Lord, why here…why now…what’s up! And then the knock on my inner door. Someone I knew needed a kidney and strangely, I the squemish one was able to simply w/o question…respond yes, here have one! Suddenly after nearly 10 years I knew w/o question at all, why I was where I was! ‘Course now comes the…Lord can I leave now!!

    Those of you w/young ones…there will be moments…many of them that will be so very significant…and again..it may be years and years before you find out about them, if ever. Just trust and say yes when He knocks!! It’s always worth it!

  • Meghan Klassen

    I love it! I, too, struggle with my “life of significance” that has been put on hold since having children. But you’re completely right– What is more significant than forming and shaping our children so that they may one day, too, live a “life of significance??” Kudos to you, great mom (and former Catholic Worker!)for all that you do!

  • Tom Gibbons

    It’s funny – the last part of your post reminded me of the last 20 minutes of “Return of the King.” It’s when Sam and Frodo return to the Shire and back to “normal life,” but they also struggle after being changed by their adventures – I remember identifying with that after my years as a volunteer. It also sounds like you came around to where Samwise did at the very end, realizing that although a family might not be the same type of adventure/service/whathaveyou, it still is it’s own journey. Great post!

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