Ambrose and Augustine.

Acquaintance:"Ah, what a sweet baby! Boy or girl?"

Me: "It's a boy."

Acquaintance:"What's his name?"

Me: "Ambrose."

Acquaintance: *the blank stare; thinking that's got to be a girl's name*  "Oh. How pretty."

Me: *oh no, not the "pretty" line again..."

Acquaintance: "Is that a family name?"

Me: "Not exactly. He's a saint and Doctor of the Catholic Church."

Acquaintance: *raised eyebrows at mentioning religion in public* "Oh. Well. Congratulations."

And so it goes when you name your son Ambrose. Don't get me wrong--I love the name we chose for our second son, and I love why we chose it.

Ambrose, along with being the Bishop of Milan in the 4th century and a mentor to St. Augustine, is the name of the Nigerian priest who celebrated our wedding Mass. He's been a close friend of my family for years, and has served my home diocese with unparalleled obedience to his bishop, even though he's far from his own home in West Africa. A man of humor, character and holiness, Fr. Ambrose Ugwuegbu just joyfully celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination this month.

He's well-versed when it comes to his namesake's protégé, as well. In a little autobiography of himself, Fr. Ambrose writes:
As I was preparing my summer vacation to New York Archdiocese, and I was waiting for a formal invitation from the parish where I was to spend my vacation, my Bishop asked me if I would like to go to the Diocese of Sacramento for missionary work. I accepted without hesitation because I really wanted to come out and experience other people's culture. As St. Augustine said, "The world is a book; if you have not traveled you are only reading the introduction.”
Skip back to St. Ambrose. The moving story of St. Augustine's conversion (and the pivotal role St. Ambrose played in it) has been brought to cinematic life by Ignatius Press in a new movie, Restless Heart. Reading one review of the film made my momma heart skip a beat:
"Augustine is eventually summoned to Milan to become the emperor’s personal orator.There he meets a pivotal figure in his conversion: St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. Upton their first meeting, Augustine is startled by the bishop's intelligence and rhetorical skill. He had rarely encountered anyone whose genius could match his own, much less a Christian bishop. Ambrose, though, seemed to use rhetoric in a different way. He didn't twist words and pretend to create his own truth. Instead Ambrose tells Augustine that men never find the truth. "They must,” he says, “let the Truth find them.”
There it is--the name Ambrose, used no less than three times in one paragraph in an article that's not a biography of him! 

It's going mainstream, I tell you. 

One other family link makes Ambrose such a special name to me. When we lost our first baby early on in my pregnancy, Sean and I decided to name him. Augustine Philip rests with Jesus now, but we know he must look upon his two earthly brothers with love. Hopefully, a very long time from now, Ambrose and Augustine (and Joseph) will enjoy the company of their saintly namesakes together.

For now, my little boy, named for both a Father and Doctor of Holy Mother Church and a beloved parish priest, brings us such joy. Tomorrow is his four-month birthday. Keep smiling, Amby!


Extra-curricular activities.

Not me.
After poking around the websites for graduate degrees and their applicable scholarships, I ran into my age-old problem: I don't volunteer enough. And everyone else (who receives grant and scholarship money, at least) does, with what looks to be great variety and consistency.

For a moment, I entertain grand notions of organizing cans of kidney beans at food banks. Hammering nails with Habitat for Humanity. Distributing sandwiches during the lunchtime meal for the poor at the Cathedral downtown.

Then I remember: I'm thinking about all these things during the 28-minute window in my day when both my toddler and infant are sleeping. During this blessed overlap, my hands aren't holding/cleaning/changing poop/feeding/nursing/grocery shopping/finding Elmo/washing dishes/folding laundry/vacuuming/driving/reading "Dinosaurs Love Underpants" for the eighteenth time.  

Shoot. If I'm going to start volunteering, it will have to be in this 28-minute window. And I'll need to hire a nanny to come stay with the kids.

In high school and college, I knew that plenty of my peers put in service hours with after-school mentoring programs, one-day maintenance projects and the like. How do I know this? I spent all my spare time as the editor of the yearbook, documenting their hard work for posterity.

Post-graduation, granted, I donated bunches of time to media and graphic design projects. I made this, and this. And created loads of materials for the Diocese of Spokane. It all took lots and lots of time, and through most of it, I was either pregnant or juggling a baby (or two). But does that work carry the same weight as an AmeriCorps stint? Four years teaching English in North Africa? Two years with Teach for America? I don't know, and in most admission offices, I don't think it does.

Fast forward to now. I've had three blessed years of stay-at-home motherhood, doing the domestic things that, if any one else besides me was doing, I could call a career.

And, if I was doing them for someone else and not being paid for it, I could call it volunteering. Ha. Oh well.


The competency test.

Two children. Two babies, more like, and two boys at that! Our little Ambrose arrived six weeks ago, and I find myself mother to the dreaded--nay, feared--"two under two." With my not-so-little Baby J just days away from his second birthday, I've realized that having a second child is like taking the finals of motherhood--and that your first child is only the midterm.

Things this time around seem somewhat more familiar. After going through the 8-month parenting trial that was Baby J's infanthood, I can truly be aware of and grateful for a more mellow baby this time around. To be finally competent in soothing, swaddling, bathing and nursing an infant doesn't hurt, either. This kid sleeps when I sleep, he eats well, he smiles on demand. He's definitely getting a passing grade, even if I might not be.

To say that my writing time has suffered as a result of the care and feeding of two little people is painfully obvious to me. But each blog post is a fresh start at the resolution to get the heck back online--between my exams, of course.


Government (should) mean service.

A dear friend sent this along to me today; it's today's meditation from Magnificat. Timely, no?
Giving to God, Giving to Caesar 
To serve God is to seek a way to human hearts, to serve God is to speak out about evil as a sickness which should be brought to light so it can be cured.  To serve God is to condemn evil in all it's manifestations... 
Government means service.  The first love of the authorities should be for those whom they govern.  And if this really were the case, if this basic Christian truth became a part of real life, if the authorities were moral, if Christian ethics dominated the principles of government, how different our lives would be... 
The whole activity of Jesus Christ was aimed at making people realize that they were created for the freedom of the children of God.  God created man in his image, so he is free; indeed, man can accept or reject his Creator... 
Let us be strong through love praying for our brothers who have been misled, without condemning anybody but condemning and unmasking evil.  Let us pray with the words Christ spoke from the cross: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34).  And give us, O Christ, an ever greater awareness that love is stronger than violence and hatred... 
The yearning for freedom cannot be stopped by violence, as violence is the weapon of those who do not posses the truth.  Man can be crushed by violence but not enslaved... 
A Christian fulfills his duties only when he is stalwart, when he professes his principles courageously, when he is neither ashamed of them or renounces them because of fear or material needs.  Woe betide a society whose citizens do not live by fortitude.  They cease to be citizens and become more like slaves.  It is fortitude which creates citizens, for only a courageous man is conscious of all his rights and duties.  If a citizen lacks fortitude, he becomes a slave and causes immeasurable harm not only to himself but to his family, his country and the Church... Fortitude is an essential part of one's life as a citizen.  That is why fortitude is, for a Christian, the most important duty after love.   
In order to remain spiritually free men, we must live in truth.  To live in truth means to bear witness to it to the outside world at all times and in all situations.  The truth is unchangeable.  It cannot be destroyed by any decree or law... Courageous witnessing to the truth leads directly to freedom.  A man who witnesses to the truth can be fee even though he might be in prison... We can overcome fear only if we accept suffering in the name of a greater value.  If the truth becomes for us a value, worthy of suffering and risk, then we shall overcome fear - the direct reason for our enslavement.   
-- Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko 
Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko (+ 1984) was a courageous Polish priest who preached against Communism and who was murdered by agents of the Polish Communist internal intelligence agency.

More to remember about this blessed man:
On October 19, 1984, the young priest was kidnapped by security agents on his way back to Warsaw after a visit to a parish in the neighboring town of Bydgoszcz. He was savagely beaten until he lost consciousness, and his body was tied up in such a way that he would strangle himself by moving. His weighted body was then thrown into a deep reservoir. His killers carried out their task with unprecedented brutality, which shows their hatred of the faith that the priest embodied. Jerzy's driver, who managed to escape, told what had happened to the press. On 30 October, Popieluszko's bound and gagged body was found in the freezing waters of a reservoir near Wloclawek. Fr Jerzy's brutal murder was widely believed to have hastened the collapse of communist rule in Poland. 
Fr Jerzy's funeral was a massive public demonstration with over 400,000 people in attendance. Official delegations of Solidarity appeared from throughout the whole country for the first time since the imposition of martial law. He was buried in the front yard of his parish church of St Stanislaw Kostka, and since that day, 17 million have visited his tomb... 
Because the murdered priest is being proclaimed a martyr for hatred of the faith, Popieluszko's beatification process did not require evidence of a miracle. The formal verification of a miracle is not necessary, even though many have been reported. His beatification is an example for priests, in the light of his total fidelity to Christ. Fr Jerzy provides a model for us, calling us to strive that what we say and do outwardly should always agree with our inward conscience.