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Of Grace and Sippy Cups: The Ritual I"ll Never Outgrow
February 11th, 2009
By Ginny Kubitz Moyer

One thing I’ve learned as a parent is the power of ritual.

Take my two-year-old son Matthew. Every night at bedtime, we read a story, then he’s tucked in with his binky and blankie. My husband and I each tell him one thing we love about him (”I love how hard you worked on your puzzle,” “I love how nice you are to your baby brother.”) We sing, share hugs and high-fives, and he goes off to sleep to the music of his windup bear.

We do this night after night, predictably, without fail. Matthew loves the consistency.

It’s easy to see why. After all, when you are two, the world is a pretty scary place. Nearly everything is bigger than you are. You have no power against the adults who scoop you up and take you wherever they want to go. No wonder that bedtime routine is so comforting to Matthew. It provides predictability in the midst of apparent randomness. It helps him rest in the knowledge that he is safe and loved.

Honestly, I think the world is pretty frightening for us big people, too. Governments are in turmoil, the economy nose-dives each day, the polar ice caps keep shrinking. On a more personal level, friends fall ill, bills pile up, anxiety reigns. There are days when I wander around feeling what Holly Golightly called “the mean reds” - I’m scared, but I don’t know exactly what I am scared of.

So I take deep breaths, pray fumbling prayers, and live a faith that sometimes feels like a valiant flailing in the dark. And in the face of life’s fears, I’m all the more grateful that the rituals of my Church are there to shore me up.

I’m especially thankful for the Mass. This is a relatively new feeling for me: in college, I found the Mass utterly boring in its sameness. I wanted something flashy, a weekly dose of variety, not a ritual I knew by heart.

But with more life experience under my belt, I see that sameness in a new light. It’s comforting that no matter how many uncertainties I face, Sunday Mass is always something I know. Whatever has changed in the world from one week to the next, I know exactly what to expect when I walk into a church.

Within the Mass, my favorite ritual is filing up the aisle to receive Communion. No matter how distracted I may have been throughout the service itself (and I’m the mother of two pint-sized masters of distraction), I can’t dream my way through the feel of the host in my mouth. It’s a ritual that is so concrete, so participatory. Tasting God is also such an intimate action; it jolts me awake, into a feeling of familiar comfort.

No, I don’t need flashy variety to help me face the stress, the fear, and the mean reds. All I need is the weekly routine that I know by heart, that experience of Christ with me and in me, the one ritual that I’ll never outgrow.

Ginny Kubitz Moyer is the author of “Mary and Me”: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God.” Contact Moyer via her blog at

From February 13, 2009 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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