Bringing Up Baby—with Mercy: Part II

August 30, 2019

By Mark and Regina Piper, Mercy Associates

In the fall of 2017, mere weeks after our second child was born, we shared how we—two young-ish Mercy Associates—were trying to rear our children in the ways of Mercy.

Mark and Regina Piper with their children
Mark and Regina Piper with their children

We focused on the works of mercy, Gospel values, care for the Earth, and the spirit of Catherine McAuley. Now, as our children are two and five years old, we’d like to revisit these themes.

Additionally, we (Mark and Regina) have renewed our covenants as Mercy Associates in the last two years, so it’s a good time to see if we’re living them out amidst the diaper explosions, the car rides with kids belting out the ABCs on repeat, the dinners with fish that they won’t touch until we tell them it’s not really fish but chicken of the sea, and the random melt-down tantrums that recede just in time for calm cuddles and adorable, unprompted “I-love-yous” from our children.

Works of Mercy

We have discovered the secret to a clean house: don’t let children in it.

As we reported two years ago, we continue to get ample opportunities to engage in the spiritual and corporal works of Mercy, such as patiently bearing the troublesome. There are days that our kitchen may have had more Cheerios strewn about than a General Mills factory at the end of a shift. More seriously, especially over the past year with our five-year-old daughter, there is a lot of “counseling the doubtful,” and “comforting the afflicted.” Of course, the amount of comfort needed for a scraped knee doesn’t always seem proportional. Our children have a flare for the dramatic.

Gospel Values

This July, on three successive Sundays (weeks 15, 16 and 17 of Ordinary Time) the Gospels summed up Christian parenting, with the flavor of Mercy. It may not seem like it, but going from the Parable of the Good Samaritan to the story of Martha and Mary and ending with an instruction on praying was an invitation and realization that parenting incorporates action and service with presence and listening, together with prayer.

It can be challenging to live out the commands of Jesus in these three Gospels, especially as parents with active, growing children. Showing mercy can be refreshing for the spirit but showing mercy day-in-and-day out to children can be taxing. So, too, can it be difficult to simply sit and be present with children—especially if they ask you to color, then inform you that you’re not doing it right. Cell phones down. TV off. Attentive listening to one’s child, even after a long-and-not-so-good day at the office, is just as important as showing mercy by taking action.

We end each day with family prayers. Sometimes our daughter wants “short prayers,” but short or long, the Our Father as Jesus prayed it is always included. And certainly between our two kids—who get along well—there’s still a most basic need for them to forgive each other, as the prayer says, when one forgets to ask permission to take the toy of the other.

Care for the Earth

Mercy, as we understand it, “responds at once” and has the dual nature of performing direct works of charity, while also addressing the long-range, systemic issues. Over the past two years, we have learned of new issues related to the care of the Earth. We hope we’re teaching our children about this Mercy Critical Concern through prayer, attention to personal and communal choices, and the need for advocacy and engagement with corporate or legislative leaders.

In early 2019, we switched from dropping our son off at an in-home sitter to dropping him off at a daycare facility. When we made the change, we were no longer able to use cloth diapers, but instead had to buy disposable diapers, which are not so good for our environment. This was a great disappointment to us. We also discovered that many daycares do not allow for breastmilk to be given. That makes it hard to boycott companies like Nestle (as the Sisters of Mercy of the UK have done). Thankfully, the daycare we selected allowed us to bring in breastmilk. From this, we see the need as parents for prayer and advocacy around systemic issues that could improve the lot of families and of our common home, the Earth.

Concluding with Catherine

We go to mass every Sunday, but that’s only part of how we try to keep holy the Sabbath and keep Mercy a living reality in our family, not just an intangible idea referenced now and again. Catherine McAuley said, “attend to one thing at a time: you’ve fifteen hours from six til nine.” She made her days holy not just by formal works of mercy, planned service and direct action, but also be ensuring her sisters danced in the evening and had comfortable cups of tea.

Mercy—parenthood—responds at once, not just to action-oriented-need, as shown in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, but by stopping what you’re doing to listen and be present to those around you, especially one’s children. Whether doing or being, working or listening, if we are truly centered in God, we’ll be engaged in constant, fervent prayer. When our children grow up, we hope they will be like Catherine. Heck, whenever it is that we get around to growing up, we want to be like Catherine, too!


Interested in Mercy Association? Learn more:
https://www.sistersofmercy.org/get-involved/mercy-associates/

Comments (19)

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  1. Amy Hoey

    Please keep writing! Your children will be a blessing to the world!


  2. Katie Mindling RSM

    Thank you for sharing with this story of your dedication to passing along to your children a heritage of Mercy concerns and values. It is an inspiration! Your commitment enriches our whole Mercy family and is certainly an inspiration to all Catholic parents.


  3. Cynthia Serjak

    Mark and Regina, thanks so much for this wonderful piece. Blessings on all the Pipers!


  4. Terese M Perry

    All parents should be canonized. Thank you for the inspirational note on how you are living as parents and striving to teach the gospel values to your children. Terese Marie Perry


  5. Sheila Zito

    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing about your sweet family! God’s blessings of good health and Christian love be with all of you.


  6. PATRICK PLOOF

    Beautiful story, and a loving family.


  7. Sue LaVoie, Companion in Mercy

    My mothering days are long finished but my grandmothering days will continue for years. Your beautiful article reminded me of raising my 6 children and invited me to bring Mercy values to this next generation.
    Really a beautiful, complete and reflective piece of writing. Thank you!


  8. Hunt Mary Elizabeth

    Thank you for this insightful and authentic reflection. It felt very familiar.


  9. Sarah M. Sherman

    Reading your reflections was the most fun I’ve had ! So beautifully written–I laughed, I cried–and one of the most beautiful expressions of MERCY that I have ever heard. Thank you for encouraging and challenging all of us!


  10. Sr. Carole Temming

    Thank you so much for your great article. I pray God will bless you, Mark and your children. You are wonderful parents in the way you include God and Catherine in each day


  11. Mary Daly

    What a wonderful witness! Thank you for sharing.


  12. s. margretta dwyer

    wonderful inspiring work


  13. Marilyn Lacey, rsm

    Beautiful writing! Even more beautiful parenting. Thank you!


  14. Sister Perpetua Lester

    How exciting to read how dedicated you are to the rich values in nurturing you babies. Regina & Mark I hope you have quiet time together & with the children too when you are not entrenched with media to appreciate silence & the gift that is to themselves.
    My prayers & praise to you all


  15. Carolyn McDonnell

    Very encouraging, in this day and age, to read an article about a young couple together being so God-centered. What a blessing to each be partnered with a spouse who is a Mercy Associate! Therefore your co-parenting tries to model the values of Mercy and Catherine McAuley. I see that in the challenging role of parenthood (I know about) that you are off to a good start in raising children who will catch on to the charisms of Mercy. My prayer for you all is that you stay centered in the Love of God.


  16. Sarah M. Sherman

    This is one of the most beautiful expressions of mercy in daily life that I have ever heard!
    Thank you and keep on keeping on.


  17. Eileen O'Connor

    Regina and Mark ~ I am in awe that two busy parents can be so imbued with the Gospel and with Mercy, so reflective and deliberate in your choices…. I will take your good example and try to continue to live Mercy daily with as much deep reflection… Blessings to you and your family, and thanks so much for sharing! Eileen O’Connor


  18. Sr. Kathleen McClelland

    You and Regina are saints and in my prayers that you may be able to continue living the Mercy life and sharing your reflections with us. Thanks, Mark.


  19. Sr Jackie Moreau

    As I gear up for a new Sunday School year,it is good to be reminded of the work that good parenting is!! Thank you.