Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer and speaker who converted to Catholicism after a life of atheism. She’s a contributor to the books The Church and New Media and Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion, and is writing a book based on her personal blog, ConversionDiary.com. She and her husband live in Austin, TX with their five young children, and were featured in the nationally televised reality show Minor Revisions. You can follow her on Twitter at @conversiondiary.
Ah, Easter Sunday. On this most glorious of days, my husband and I and our five young children rise early to meditate on the mysteries of the Resurrection. After an hour of prayer the kids search for their Easter baskets. When they find them, they ignore the chocolate bunnies and colorful jelly beans to ask about the saints featured on their new prayer cards that were tucked into the baskets. During a deeply stirring Mass, the full meaning of Easter is placed on our hearts in a profound way. We sing songs the whole way home, and in the evening we enjoy a lovely dinner, during which our conversation covers a variety of pious and holy topics.
...In my dreams. In reality, it usually goes something like this:
I wake up late, because I stayed up past midnight getting the house ready for Easter. The kids have already begun hunting for their baskets by the time I rise. My husband and I stop them to say a few prayers, and when we finally give them permission to resume the search they run like prisoners escaping incarceration. Once they spot their baskets, they pounce on them like lions on prey. In their frenzy to cram as much candy into their mouths as quickly as possibly, they almost eat the prayer cards. We have to arrive at church an hour before Mass starts in order for the seven of us to sit together, and by the time we get to the Gospel reading the youngest three kids are exhibiting symptoms usually only seen in rabid animals. After Mass we're stuck in parking lot traffic for fifteen minutes, our discussions about the readings interrupted with, "Why isn't the car moving, Daddy?" and "Mommy, she hit me in the ear again!" By the time the big dinner rolls around, the kids are coming down from their sugar highs, and I spend most of the time soothing a punchy three-year-old who is sobbing because her green beans were not arranged correctly on her plate.
Last night, after I finally got everyone to bed, I wondered how much I'd really thought about the Resurrection that day. When we talked about it in the morning, it was under the pressure of knowing that we would have to park blocks away from the church if we didn't leave soon enough. I made my best effort to ponder the scriptures during Mass, but my concentration was broken every few minutes by the need to tend to one of the little ones, who had all reached their limits of how long they could sit quietly somewhere around the Penitential Rite. I promised myself I'd pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary once I got in bed, but I collapsed into a deep and much-needed sleep the moment my head hit the pillow.
When I woke up this morning, I was relieved to remember that I still had forty-nine more days to contemplate the Resurrection. As I walked through the house putting white patent leather shoes back in closets, picking up Cadbury Egg wrappers, and tidying the scattered contents of Easter baskets (all the while trying not to think bad thoughts about whatever madman invented that plastic green Easter grass, which had somehow migrated to cover every square inch of my house), I was reminded once again that the big holidays often aren't the best days for deep reflection. The grand feasts and celebrations have their place, but they also take a lot of work. When you have to clean and cook and get everyone dressed up and wade through huge crowds at church and come home and serve a special meal and then clean up after it all, there simply aren't a lot of hours left in the day for anything else.
At the beginning of this first Monday of Easter, a gorgeous Spring day here in Texas, I'm grateful that we have an entire season to think about the Resurrection. The Church, in her wisdom, knows that we need more than a single day to wrap our minds around the significance of the empty tomb. And so as I continue to recover from the whirlwind of happy chaos that was yesterday, I'm excited to know that Easter is not over, but has only just begun.