Mara Fosdick
Photo: Samantha Worthing

Witness

Meeting Jesus in the ordinary

When first asked to speak at ArchOmaha Unite, Mara Fosdick had no idea what she would say.

“I had heard the archdiocesan mission statement before,” said Fosdick, a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Gretna, who was asked to witness to what it means to encounter Jesus. “And I think I fell into the temptation to either write it off as cliché or hear ‘encountering Jesus’ as this daunting phrase.”

“As I’ve had an opportunity to reflect on what it really means to encounter Jesus, now I hear it in a completely new way,” Fosdick continued.

In her reflection, she thinks back to her first encounter with Jesus at baptism, she said. “Although I had no recollection of the sacrament, the saving act still came to me as a complete, unmerited gift.”

“(This) first encounter with my Savior is my constant reminder today as a wife and mother that it’s not I who initiate my encounter with Christ every day, but he who begins life within me and continues it until the day I’m finally his,” she said.

Fosdick spoke about experiencing Christ in her vocations as wife and mother during the ‘Encountering Jesus’ panel discussion of ArchOmaha Unite’s Main Event June 8 at the CHI Health Center in Omaha. She and her family were also featured in the accompanying video opening the session.

She and her husband, Blake, have five children with twins on the way. She homeschools the kids during the day, takes them to daily Mass at St. Charles and ends the day with night prayer, Blake said. The seven of them also pray a family rosary together once a week.

Mara said she encounters Jesus in the most ordinary tasks of her day, and especially in the moments she feels most frustrated and inadequate. “The duties of my vocation, instead of them being obstacles to holiness, they become the very path of encountering him every day,” she said.

The same is true for Blake as a working father and husband. The opportunity to encounter Christ in the service of others is constantly present in the needs of his family, he said. “The best way, as Christ has told us, to be his disciple is to take up your cross daily,” Blake said. “The beauty of the family is that it’s built in for you. Not that the people you’re living with are a cross, but that your opportunity to serve is ample.”

I can encounter Jesus on a pilgrimage or a retreat, but the beauty of our Catholic faith is that it’s universal. Christ gives himself to us in the Eucharist every day. To encounter him, I can go to the sacraments, then through the reality of my relationship with him I can learn to encounter him in the mundane and the ordinary.

For Mara, being vulnerable with Christ about her own limitations allows her to encounter him all the more. “In that vulnerability, I have to create a space for him,” she said. “I tell him I feel inadequate as a mother. I don’t know how to love my kids. I don’t know how to form them and I feel overwhelmed.”

One of her struggles as a parent is monitoring the amount of screen time and the types of messages her kids absorb each day, she said.

“I want their purity but I don’t know how to do it. This then becomes the very place that I hear him and sometimes it takes a day or two or a month to actually know that I’ve encountered God’s care, but it reminds me again that I’m not the one in control. I have to wait and create that space to encounter him,” Mara said.

By inviting Christ into her daily life, Mara has been able to experience him in all things, even routines as simple as making breakfast or doing the laundry. She has realized that it does not take something grandiose for her to see God, she said.

“The temptation to think that my encounter with Jesus has to be dramatic or that I have to go somewhere to find him is just that, a temptation,” Mara said. “I can encounter Jesus on a pilgrimage or a retreat, but the beauty of our Catholic faith is that it’s universal. Christ gives himself to us in the Eucharist every day. To encounter him, I can go to the sacraments, then through the reality of my relationship with him I can learn to encounter him in the mundane and the ordinary.”

“These encounters are what then become dramatic because, as I do the laundry with joy and love, I know that it is not me who lives but Christ who lives within me,” she said.